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Innovative Technology Offers More Study Choice To MBA Students

By adopting technology, business schools can open up more study choice for MBA students for the increasing number of elective courses on offer.

Mon Nov 24 2014

The use of technology at business schools is poised to open up more study choice for MBA students who are often frustrated by the limited number of spots on elective courses such as big data and digital marketing.

Professors at Wharton in the US have devised a system for the auctioning of spots on MBA electives which they believe provides fairer distribution.

The increase in the number of elective classes offered outside of core MBA modules over the past few years has made this process more important. A raft of leading business schools such as Warwick, MIT: Sloan and Sauder School of Business offer entrepreneurship or innovation electives, while distance learning is also increasing the options available to MBAs.

Wharton’s new class allocation system, Course Match, was launched in the 2013-14 academic year. It uses a complex algorithm to determine which students enter which classes, after they allocate course preferences.

A large business school like Wharton has more than 1600 students allocating preferences for nearly 300 different sections.

Using Course Match, students allocate 100 points to their preferred elective and then give points to other courses in proportion. Second-year MBA students are allocated 5,000 bidding; first-year students 4,000. Those who bid for less popular courses with a lower tariff are not allowed to carry unused points over to the next year.

“We began working on [Course Match] over two years ago and after all this time it was wonderful seeing the final result of all of our efforts, which included input from students, faculty, and the administration,” said Gérard Cachon, department chair for operations and information management, at the time of the system’s launch.

The previous system, the Auction, received increasingly negative results in student satisfaction surveys, and some business school professors believe that similar systems are flawed.

But after an initial review of the Course Match results, the number of unique 2Y students enrolled in one of the most expensive courses has increased by over 50%, compared to the results of the Auction in 2012.

“Course Match centres around equity. It diffusely distributes these scarce resources rather than concentrating them in the hands of a few students,” said Gérard.

The new allocation system is only used for Wharton’s MBA program but it could be extended to its undergraduate degree and even the wider university.

By adopting this technology, other business schools may also be able to solve a common problem that can make it more difficult for MBA students to specialize in their subjects of choice.