NEWS | Innovative Advances in Business Education Today

Published On: Monday, 24th Jul 2023


Although extremely challenging on many levels, the recent Covid-19 pandemic has changed much in business and how we approach work in general.

So how can business schools adapt after the pandemic and offer the best opportunities for their students? Just like businesses, business schools have had to adapt to comply with lockdown restrictions and to keep a high level of service throughout.

One of the most innovative advances in business education is a direct result of Covid-19. There has been a dramatic increase in the level of remote learning. We are all now familiar with Zoom and Teams which became such a mainstay for business, students, and family communication. For students, the traditional classroom has been replaced; it will be interesting to see how this develops. It’s an opportunity that has come out of adversity as many great ideas do and has pushed the need to digitize, and thus accelerated digital learning at a pace never imagined a couple of years ago.

Virtual campus
As well as recovering post-pandemic, all business sectors are coming to terms with rapid transformation. Added to this, there are huge changes and challenges before us all, including climate change, war in Ukraine and continuing shifts in economics and political power. As businesses must adapt so must business schools and there are encouraging signs that this is happening already.

For example, over the next two years, we will see the growth and development of the virtual campus, with schools building closer links between classroom and virtual learning environments.

Many business schools now have MBA programmes in both hybrid and online formats, as a direct consequence of the pandemic. As well as programmes, new campuses are being equipped with microphones, cameras, and innovative technology to best enable hybrid learning.

At INSEAD, for example, students both on-campus and at home have taken part in courses using virtual reality headsets. INSEAD’s VR Immersive Learning Initiative was launched after the COVID outbreak to teach in a different, more immersive way.

Hybrid learning is becoming increasingly more useful as it better enables students to switch seamlessly between face-to-face study and an immersive virtual world.

Artificial intelligence
We now have increasingly capable robots and AI systems that can take on tasks previously done by humans. This leaves not only employers but more importantly, our business leaders of the future with searching questions about finding the right balance between human intelligence and intelligent machines. There is no doubt that AI has forever changed the way that business is conducted and will for many years into the future. As business calls out for innovative ideas and solutions to AI questions, for and against, business schools will be looking into their curriculums to prepare their MBA students for a business world shaped to some extent by AI and will be teaching them how to find the right balance to everyone’s advantage.

Nowadays, business education is no longer just about management, marketing, finance, and human resource management. New specialisations are being added all the time to widen the breadth of knowledge available.

Further specialisations like environmental risk and management, agriculture management, and healthcare management are on offer. This trend also impacts how courses and degree programmes offered by different colleges and universities cater to the demand for a specialised skilled workforce.

Schools are now working with other departments, integrating the insights from diverse fields - humanities, political science, natural sciences, and design - into the curriculum.

In September 2022, University College London opened the world’s first business school solely dedicated to healthcare and to training future healthcare leaders. They offer a Health MBA plus specialised master’s programmes in biotech and pharmaceutical management, global healthcare management, and digital health and entrepreneurship. There is no doubt we will continue to see a rise in the specialised programmes being offered by business education institutions.

Return of international candidates
The aftermath of Covid will still affect some business school candidates looking to study abroad, for example, in China, travel and visa restrictions mean that schools are struggling to recruit international students.

However, this year will see more international students arriving on business school campuses, as international applications continue to recover post-pandemic.

The Graduate Management Admission Council’s Application Trends Survey, which serves as a good barometer for the year ahead, found that the total volume of international applications to graduate programmes rose by 4.1 percent in 2021, while 44 percent of MBA programmes saw an increase in international applications.

Statistics also show that more women are applying to do two-year MBAs (60 percent of programmes reported application growth from women).

Business schools also have the opportunity to promote further internationalisation. Although the pandemic closed travel borders, the digital world opens former geographical boundaries.

No doubt business schools will add opportunities to the international experience further than exchanges and study trips. Possibilities for the future of business schools (some of which are already happening) include work with students from different schools, more international guest speakers, and joint online and blended multi-location programmes.

Climate change
As ever, what is happening globally and affecting the business world will be reflected in business school curriculums and climate change action will certainly need specialised leaders in the future. Business schools will have to embrace the responsibility of helping translate climate science into action.

MBA students are important agents of organisational change. Schools are aware that they need to pay attention to the intersection between business and the environment so they can make the biggest impact on tackling climate change.

Rankings continue to be a primary source of business school legitimacy with the weight of various sustainability categories increasing each year. Green topics like sustainability and green finance are growing. These topics used to be integrated into traditional core courses, but now, entire programmes - and perhaps even the school identity - will be developed around them.

Business schools will change curriculums to meet global challenges
Both employers and graduates will be looking for radical changes in business management education, so much so, that calls from all aspects of business and society, are likely to force business schools to respond.

When it comes to the future of business schools, the most meaningful change will be the rethink of the curriculum, primarily around societal trends such as climate change, large language models and block chain, and health and wellbeing - topics that historically would not have featured prominently in business education. These themes and issues will certainly continue to appear within degree programmes at the graduate level.

In conclusion, it is fair to say that the impact of Covid-19 has accelerated the level of change in business school and shone a light on a unique way forward. Business school curriculums are often seen as mirrors to the skills our businesses will need their workforce to possess in the future. Globally the world is facing many serious issues at one time so together with post-pandemic recovery this should drive innovation in business schools for the rest of the decade at least.

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