Jul 13, 2017 By G. John Cole
From bachelor degrees to masters and MBAs, business education is going through an exciting period of flux during 2017, as learning methods, technology, and the business world alike adapt to changing times.
Business schools are boldly facing up to big changes within the industry itself in order to produce graduates who are ready to take on and excel at the ever-evolving jobs for which they’ve been prepared. The 2008 financial crisis has triggered a long-overdue shift in emphasis towards ethics courses, risk management, and sustainability. As the sector recovers and moves on from those dark days, more jobs are becoming available – particularly in compliance and in the risk departments of institutions such as Banque de France.
Today's students recognize the value of work experience and are keen to use these experiences to shift the focus of their studies, for example by improving their knowledge of IT, mathematical tools, and the global financial markets. Indeed, it is increasingly difficult for graduates to find a position in investment banking without an internship under their belt. Online learning empowers those who want to maintain their study throughout internships or who are unable to meet the geographic demands of campus learning, while students who are keen to embrace the sharing economy and the emerging Internet of Things are also appreciative of the breathing space to develop their skills while they develop their business. Simply put, the method of learning matches the business type and lifestyle aims of many of today’s upcoming entrepreneurs.
This is not to say that the traditional classroom remains untouched by technology. Digital simulations, such as the Marketplace software used at Florida International University’s College of Business Administration, give students the opportunity to make business decisions in "an environment of uncertainty." Marketed as “interactive and visually engaging business games”, Marketplace’s simulations put students at the head of a fictional microcomputer business which they must steer to success. Students must analyze research data and navigate challenges and – optionally – peer competition as they are automatically assessed and graded by the software. The response from students has been clear: they believe it offers greater educational value than lecture-based courses.
Improved communications mean that MBA students can connect with entrepreneurial and non-profit projects around the world, sharing ideas and solutions with all levels of business. Graduates at the Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, for example, are doing just that during a full-time, seven-week consulting program called the Multi-disciplinary Action Project. Harvard has its own field-based, experiential Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development.
This more personalized student experience is not yet widespread, but it is being trailblazed by institutions such as Nottingham Business School, who spent four months developing an individualized learning framework based on four axes of education: knowledge, pedagogy, experiential learning, and career development. Today, mentors and personal tutors help to guide students through the choices they make regarding the study abroad, internship, placement, and startup opportunities that the university offers. Added personalization is made possible by the training of alumni to provide mentorship to current students: with the number of trained alumni now in its hundreds it becomes highly feasible to identify a mentor whose career path complements the aspirations of each current student.
And it’s not all about the learning experience per se. Institutions can better utilize big data to enhance the practical experience of being a student – much as we see with online commerce. If cities can become smart, campuses should be leading the way: course suggestions based on browser data (a la Google Ads), up to the minute availability data for resources such as campus bikes, studios, and labs, as well as more powerful tools for tracking and comparing academic performance.
The student experience is such a varied, dynamic, and scheduling-intensive process that a form of personalized digital PA or dashboard could help those who struggle to balance lectures, seminars, informal meet-ups and their own study periods. With decent privacy checks in place, these profiles could be connected to make it easier to find rooms to study in and colleagues with whom to study, as well as making payments at university facilities and opening doors to which only certain groups have access.
The American workforce will have 60 million temporary workers of varying kinds by 2020, making traits such as motivation, ambition, and adaptability more valuable than they’ve ever been. B-schools will lead the way by exemplifying these strengths and adjusting the way things are taught in order to best prepare their students for the changing nature of the industry.