How Are Business Schools Changing The Outlook Towards MBA Education?

Curriculum reviews are happening more often and with a higher rate of change, to factor the current and emerging world.

In early 2020, the pandemic brought almost the whole world to a grinding halt. This ‘unexpected force majeure’ triggered a new orbit for the digital revolution.

Literally, overnight schools along with most other educational institutes across state/national boundaries were compelled to shift to a completely virtual mode of learning & enablement of the same. Until then, such modes of instructional design formed a small percentage of pedagogy deployed primarily in the classroom context.

The Higher Education ecosystem across the globe went through tumultuous churning, leading to a significant disruption-led transformation in the learning and teaching spaces. 

This phenomenon was accelerated due to three factors: Increased availability of digital platforms that was deep in engagement in the virtual space. Secondly, the experimentation (no choice situation) in the virtual learning space by different leading institutions in India/globally came alive. Lastly, the above two factors drove heightened velocity, because of the ‘age /generation related’ demographic shifts. 

Flowing from the above turn of events, disruption also affected the plans of many young professionals, who were intending to pursue an MBA from B-school in India/overseas.

In a sense, these MBA aspirants had to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. 

The relentless push towards digital-based disruption in the learning & teaching space further reinforced the need for an urgent review of the structure, pedagogy, assessment and outcome of various HE programs, including MBA.

The above momentum surfaced the urgent need to visualise the skills/competencies architecture and priority for the MBA graduates that will enable them to meet the challenge of today and the day after tomorrow.

B-schools are hence, not wasting any time to restructure, realign & better adapt to the rate and scope of change. 

Curriculum reviews are happening more often and with a higher rate of change, to factor the current and emerging world.

In a broader and deeper sense, B Schools are asking deeper questions, i.e. ‘What is the Purpose of Business Education,' 'What should the MBA Graduate be able to do,' 'What are the ecosystem boundaries within which MBA education should be anchored' etc.

In this manner, B Schools and related stakeholders (Industry, Regulators, Alumni) are trying to change the fundamental outlook towards MBA education, where would the products of such education be valued, how should the MBA Grad behave/perform/adapt/contribute etc., in the new normal.

Four trends are captured below:

Increasing  demand for STEM- embedded ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics )MBAs:

We are witnessing a surge in demand for students/lateral hires, who are technology savvy, innovation-friendly and agile in thought/behaviour/action. It is hence expected that there could be higher enrolments in Technology embedded MBA specializations, ie: Management Science, Business Analytics, Statistics and Product Management, People Analytics etc. Consequently, an increasing number of B-schools are crafting more Programs (including intake numbers) to address the needs of such students. 

Focus on blended learning:

Virtual education platforms have increasingly made/making their inroads into the Higher Education system.

These platforms are not limited to complementing and supplementing classroom teaching. Such platforms are becoming independent platforms, that can address synchronous and asynchronous learning needs. (Even from Primary school levels). 

Policymakers and many Higher Education Institutions in India have seen the wisdom and merit of permitting their students to complete the theoretical core courses, in online mode, which also has a salutary effect on the overall reduction in the cost of imparting such education. 

Increasingly, meaningful Tech-enabled, innovative and hybrid learning solutions are being incorporated and implemented across institutes in India.  The regulatory & other stakeholders seem to have come to terms, that a well-crafted hybrid solution has the potential to substantially reduce the cost of learning, which in turn could address and reduce the yawning gap in Demand-Supply of the right Faculty. 

Updated Course Curriculum:

B-schools in India & all over the world are restructuring their Program/Course content, to factor the changes in their learning systems, triggered by the increasing pervasiveness of Digital Technologies & the challenges of the Pandemic. 

In recent research reports, it is estimated- on an average- students retain 25-60 per cent more learning, l when online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom. This could be due to the student being able to learn faster online. It is estimated that e-learning methods lead to 40-60 per cent less time consumption, by the student, compared to the classroom setting. This is ascribed to the ‘flexibility’ in the ‘rate of speed of learning’ that can be chosen by different students. 

Emphasis on Data/Research: 

Big data, Business Research, Analytics have emerged as vital skills/competence to be honed by MBA students, irrespective of their specialisations.

Hence, most leading B Schools have included this focus as a critical element of the curriculum. Companies across industries, increasingly are collecting voluminous data, concerning their customers, consumers, competition and supply chains. This data has to be cleaned, stratified and tested with hypotheses rigour so that the humongous data emerge as valuable insights for decision making. Data is not the focus anymore. It is what the MBA student does with data that is most important and the same is being reflected in the curriculum of many business schools.

Before closing, a few remarks:

Post-pandemic, it has become crucial for B Schools to instil in their students, a deeper understanding of the global socio-economic developments and integrated with relevant Technologies y, building on Innovation Tools.

B-schools should also emphasise, through curriculum design, the importance of entrepreneurship skills (with relevant practical assignments)

Lastly, students should be taught how to cross time zones, cultures and language borders.

Covid-19 has become a catalyst for all sections of society, across the globe.  One thing is certain,  in the evolving new scenario,  MBA students are in demand, now more than ever.

Are B Schools listening?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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