n 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 and most other educational institutes across state and national boundaries were compelled to shift to a completely virtual mode of learning. Until then, such modes of instructional design formed a small percentage pedagogy deployed primarily in 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. The no-choice experimentation in virtual learning space by different leading institutions in India and globally came alive. And the above two factors drove heightened velocity, because of the ‘age and generation related’ demographic shifts.
This disruption also affected the plans of many young professionals, who were intending to pursue an MBA from a 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
and teaching space further reinforced the need for an urgent review of the structure, pedagogy, assessment and outcome of various education programs, including MBA.
The momentum surfaced the urgent need to visualise the skills and competencies architecture, and prioritise the need to enable MBA graduates meet the challenge of today and day after tomorrow. B-schools are, hence, not wasting any time to restructure, realign and better adapt to the rate and scope of change.
Curriculum reviews are happening more often and with 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 the 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 a MBA education—where would the products of such an education be valued; how should the MBA Grad behave or perform or adapt or contribute etc, in the new normal.
Four trends are captured below: 1. Increasing demand for STEM-embedded MBAs:
We are witnessing a surge in demand for students or lateral hires, who are technology savvy, innovation-friendly and agile in thought, behaviour and action. It is, hence, expected that there could be higher enrolments in technology-embedded MBA specialisations, 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. 2. Focus on blended learning: Virtual education
platforms have increasingly made inroads into the higher education system. These platforms are not limited to complementing and supplementing classroom teaching. Such platforms are becoming an independent platform, 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 overall reduction in cost of imparting such an education.
Increasingly, meaningful tech-enabled, innovative and hybrid learning solutions are being incorporated and implemented across institutes in India. The regulatory and 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. 3. Updated course curriculum:
B-schools in India and all over the world are restructuring their programs and course content to factor in the changes in their learning systems.
In recent research reports, it is estimated that on average, students retain 25-60 percent more learning, while learning online compared to only 8-10 percent 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 percent less time consumption by the student compared to learning in a classroom setting. This is ascribed to the ‘flexibility
’ in the ‘rate of speed of learning’ that can be chosen by different students.
4. Emphasis on data and research:
Big data, business research and analytics have emerged as a vital skill and 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, are increasingly 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 emerges as valuable insights for decision making. Data is not the focus any more. It is what the MBA student does with data which is most important and the same is being reflected in the curriculum of many business schools.
Post-pandemic, it has become crucial for B-schools to instil a deeper understanding of the global socio-economic developments in their students, with curriculum that is integrated with relevant technologies and 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 work across time zones, cultures and language borders.
Covid-19 has become a catalyst for change 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? The article is contributed by Prof. Dr. Uday Salunkhe, Group Director, S.P. Mandali’s Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research (WeSchool), and Prof. Vijayan Pankajakshan, Dean - HR, Chief Human Resource Officer and Head – Career Management Cell (WeSchool).