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5 Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Impacting MBA Students

From robo-teachers to dealing with job displacement, artificial intelligence is set to affect waves of MBA students

By  Seb Murray

Tue Dec 3 2019

Autonomous vehicles, autonomous weapons, autonomous home appliances. And that’s just a drop in the ocean. Artificial intelligence has gone beyond science fiction in recent years and will revolutionize the way we live our lives.

Business is being affected left, right, and center. 54% of executives say artificial intelligence tools have boosted their company’s productivity. Add to that the projected 40% increase in labor productivity from AI use, and the 61% of business professionals who say machine learning and artificial intelligence are their organization’s most significant data initiative. 

Artificial intelligence is creeping into the everyday life of today’s MBA student too, and sometimes in surprising ways. 

Here are five ways artificial intelligence is impacting MBA students:

1. Robo-teachers 

Business education has so far avoided the massive digital disruption witnessed in other industries like media: the MBA is still largely campus based. But technology is changing how students learn. 

One example is AI tutors. London’s Imperial College Business School uses an AI chatbot that answers students’ questions more quickly than human professors can. Georgia Tech uses a robot that assists teaching entire computer science classes. 

“AI’s ability to analyze large amounts of data in real-time helps to meet MBA students' need for continual, targeted practice and personalized feedback,” says Margherita Pagani, director of the research center on Artificial Intelligence in Value Creation at Emlyon Business School in France. 

“It also allows professors to better understand student performance and orchestrate more effective personalized learning plans.” 

2. Student recruitment 

Artificial intelligence could also be used to recruit students, according to Steve Muylle, academic director of the Online MBA at Belgium’s Vlerick Business School. He says an AI could be trained through listening to recordings of phone calls and interviews with students who have consented. 

It could then evaluate an MBA applicant’s speaking patterns and even facial expressions, to gauge how positively they are responding to human recruitment officers, and their genuine interest in the course. 

An AI could also reach out to potential applicants on social media based on search data, Steve says.   

3. Marketing 

AI is on the MBA syllabus too, with business schools providing plenty of fascinating use cases for students. 

Alain Goudey, chief digital officer at France’s NEOMA Business School, says AI has promising applications in marketing—it can be used to adapt the content of a digital screen to the customer. KFC and Baidu, for instance, have a menu that adapts based on an AI’s estimation of a customer’s age and gender. 

But this highlights obvious ethical implications. Artificial intelligence can, for example, potentially determine a person’s sexual orientation based on a picture of their face. Just because you can use AI for something, it doesn’t mean you should. 

“It’s important to make MBA students familiar with AI, as the technology is perfectible, and it’s easy to make the algorithm wrong,” says Alain. “Companies need managers with a critical analysis of where AI creates value, and how to ensure an algorithm is ethical.”  

4. Job displacement 

One of the biggest ethical dilemmas future business leaders will face with AI is the automation of jobs. 

AI-powered drones, for example, are replanting millions of trees in Myanmar, helping the environment. JD.com has a factory of robots that organize, pick, and ship 200,000 orders a day. It’s manned by only four humans. 

“AI-powered robots can do many physical tasks faster, more safely, and more reliably than humans can,” says Stephen Thomas, an assistant professor at the Smith School of Business in Canada, adding that managers should “automate boring and repetitious tasks to robots”. 

5. Career matchmaking 

Many people think robots will displace swathes of workers, but AI could in fact help them land jobs. That’s according to Steve at Vlerick. 

He says that, by gathering data from MBA alumni on their career paths, aspirations, and current employers, AI can identify the skills current students will need to succeed in their careers. 

AI can also direct MBA alumni to tailored, personalized learning programs by business schools. It could also connect them with employers, matching skillset and skill needs. 

Italy’s MIP Politecnico di Milano has pioneered this approach in business school with an AI search engine called Flexa that it developed with Microsoft. 

AI can also be used to help get people through the recruitment process. AI can analyze how a CV is written, how someone is presenting themselves with a video, and provide feedback. 

From AI-powered drones in Myanmar to robo-teachers in business school, there are plenty of surprising AI applications that can help MBA students.