Will digital replace campus learning? Is the traditional MBA model under threat?
The pressure on schools to attract a shrinking pool of MBA candidates, who are questioning the cost and value of the degree, is forcing structural change. Meanwhile, the rush to online learning is set to accelerate.
Andrea Masini, the newly-appointed dean of the HEC Paris MBA, anticipates a growing divide between two types of business schools.
“What we observe is a clear distinction between business schools that target a large number of customers and an elite school like ours that provides a premium service,” he says: personalized training rather than “simple top-down education, which is standardized”.
“Customization and proximity [between faculty and] the participants are fundamental,” Andrea says, adding that HEC Paris caps the size of its MBA cohort.
“We believe the market for top programs will be made of more of these types of programs.”
Downsizing With Digital
“In 2016, I think we will continue to see the launch and growth of one-year degree programs in all their forms,” says Alison Davis-Blake, dean of the Ross School of Business at University of Michigan.
“And we will continue to see every single player using technology expensively and intensively in some way,” she adds. A plethora of top schools, from Stanford GSB to INSEAD, have invested heavily in online learning environments.
Alison says the digital drive will accelerate not just with degree programs — which are “quite expensive to launch and maintain” — but campus courses, too.
“I think we’ll see more changes [made] by bringing technology into the classrooms that we have, rather than new online degrees.”
Professor Yuan Ding, dean of CEIBS in Shanghai, says that schools in China will have to adapt to the country’s ongoing economic restructuring.
The composition of CEIBS’ Executive MBA, for instance, has shifted from mostly managers of state-owned enterprises to private firms, who are more demanding.
“They ask for tailor-made and interactive programs, instead of the traditional ‘set menu’ approach where we just provided them with the skills we think they need,” he says.
Another big change for Chinese schools to consider is the growth of direct outbound Chinese investment. Over a decade this has swelled from virtually zero to more than $100 billion a year, Rhodium Group estimates.
“There is a lot more interaction between Chinese businesses and those outside of China,” says Yuan. “We need to tackle this in our curriculum design.” Meanwhile, China faces an aging society, and a rural-urban rebalance.
Outside of China, CEIBS' dean points to “increasing online modules, consulting firms offering their own business management training, and public funds drying up so publicly-funded universities are faced with a new reality: raise funds from the private sector or die”.
But he does not foresee significant changes in 2016; changes will happen over the next five-10 years, he says.
Bricks Vs Clicks
Ivan Bofarull, director of the Global Intelligence Office at ESADE Business School, says business education is transitioning to a hybrid business model.
“‘All-you-can-learn’ digital offerings will coexist with highly-customized, sophisticated, residential course deliveries,” he says.
He suggests that in the near future, schools should start exploring how to set transferability mechanisms between both massive open online courses and degree programs.
“MIT’s MicroMasters or Arizona State University’s Global Freshman Academy, which allow some credit transfer between Moocs and residential degrees, are only the beginning,” he says.