The power of online learning is growing. MBA students may soon be able to take an entire interactive course from an Apple iPad as business education expands beyond its campus roots and business schools race to deploy the latest technologies.
Lynn University and American College Dublin will offer an online MBA degree that students can complete partly through a smart device. Candidates can earn 50% of required credits through Lynn University’s iPad-powered curriculum.
“It is a highly personalized education with small class sizes and unlimited use of next-generation collaboration tools,” said Gregg Cox, Lynn University vice president for academic affairs.
The innovative use of mobile technology allows for “competitive tuition rates” and significant cost savings on textbooks, Lynn University said.
The university has been using mobile tech for the past two years to improve student engagement and reduce costs.
Students in the program will take online classes delivered through iTunes U, Apple’s online learning hub, which already hosts content from the likes of Harvard, Stanford and MIT.
The Lynn University course is latest illustration of the explosion of digital business education and the push towards personalized devices that could enable students to learn without putting their careers on hold.
Technology companies have developed everything from digital textbooks to smart glasses, smart watches and even brain engagement headbands.
Not all innovation has been adopted by business schools. But many have already rolled out some of the latest digital tools. According to market research group IDC, more than four million PCs and tablets were sold to US high schools and colleges in the third quarter of 2014. Tablet sales to the education sector doubled in 2013.
UNSW Business School in Australia, for example, last year rolled out digital course material and allocated iPads to new students, allowing MBAs to create e-portfolios.
It was the biggest change to program delivery since AGSM, a branch of the business school, opened its doors nearly 38 years ago, said Professor Julie Cogin, who is deputy dean at UNSW Business School.
“The time is right to move on from the traditional way of doing things and ultimately remove the need for paper,” she said.
“We have listened to feedback from students and alumni and have made changes in response to the new ways people learn,” she added. “The leaders studying in our programs are leaders in a digital world and by facilitating learning this way, we are equipping them to deal with future trends in the workplace.”
Hult International Business School and Ashridge Business School in the UK have given students iPads that come preloaded with case studies and textbooks. Swiss business school IMD distributes iPads in MBA and other courses. IMD was one of the first to implement widespread use of tablet tech.
In the US, Georgia’s Robinson College of Business, the Mendoza College of Business and Virginia’s Darden School of Business have announced or trialled similar schemes. NYU Stern has used iPads in partnership with XanEdu, a tech company that pioneered the delivery of digital course packs in classrooms.
XanEdu publishes business cases that can be accessed on mobile devices through the App Store, developed by business schools including INSEAD, Ivey, IESE and Kellogg. XanEdu works with 1,000 institutions to deliver content to 600,000 students.
Mobile apps have been gaining ground in business education. London-based business SmartUp is developing apps that will enable users to quickly grasp the key points of academic texts and apply the learning to simulations of business challenges in real time.
SmartUp was founded by the entrepreneurs and investors behind restaurant chain Pizza Express and flight search engine Skyscanner. SmartUp raised $1 million in seed funding from investors including Luke Johnson of Risk Capital Partners and Edward Wray, co-founder of online bookmaker Betfair.
Google recently launched an app — Primer — that uses gamification to teach entrepreneurs the fundamentals of marketing, which is free to download.
More than 75,000 educational apps are already available in the App Store and publishers can make their own textbooks for the iBooks store.
Other tech groups have partnered with academic institutions but many seek to disrupt them. Among the most successful challengers to the traditional learning model are the developers of Moocs – massive open online courses.
Open University-backed FutureLearn, edX — founded by Harvard and MIT universities — and Coursera, which has around 13 million users, have made the biggest dents.
Nonetheless the creation of online learning courses is an area of huge growth for business schools and universities.
The Digital Business Academy — a venture between Tech City, Cambridge Judge Business School and others aimed at entrepreneurs — has signed up more than 12,000 users since launching in 2014.
Gerard Grech, Tech City UK chief executive, said that the program represents a “revolutionary shift in attitude” to how people approach learning.
The College of Business at the University of Illinois this month revealed a partnership with Coursera to launch a Mooc-style MBA with open enrolment.
Believed to be the first of its kind, the $20,000 iMBA is “disrupting the market”, said Raj Echambadi, University of Illinois associate dean of outreach and engagement.
“You can enter the iMBA whenever you want and take the courses in whatever sequence works for you,” he said. “Most programs have a set sequence — a set of core classes, then some opportunities to build specialization over time. Ours cuts to the chase.”