Business schools are looking forward to a new era of education technology


Business school leaders have shown their schools to have been both pragmatic and agile in the face of 2020’s disruption, according to the AMBA & BGA Education Technology Research, in association with Barco.

The 216 decision makers at international business schools who completed AMBA & BGA’s research demonstrated that while, initially, they have all been reactive to the need for to adopt tech rapidly in the face of social distancing; they also ascertained challenges quickly and moved to address them with innovative strategies and problem solving moving forward.

Key findings

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • 91% of business school leaders have been involved in more digital or online learning opportunities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic; 85% conducted lectures using virtual teaching technology; 61% offered flexible timings for delivering programmes; and 59% increased the capacity of teaching related to emerging technology and innovation in 2020.
  • 96% of business school leaders said their school had increased its use of online delivery methods for programmes because of COVID-19; 71% of Business school leaders said their institution used online delivery methods pre-pandemic.
  • 84% of courses were taught in classrooms, pre-COVID-19, and this dropped to just 24% in 2020, while online delivery shot up from 8%, pre-COVID-19, to 68% during the pandemic.
  • 98% of business school leaders believe their school was either very successful or fairly successful in taking programmes online due to COVID-19.
Investment in digital teaching and learning
  • 74% of respondents say their business schools are investing a moderate amount or more into online teaching for MBA programmes. The MBA is currently receiving the most funding in comparison to other programmes, for digital learning among the business schools represented by respondents.
  • 88% of business school leaders believe the effectiveness of digital teaching on the MBA programmes at their schools to have been either ‘very effective’, or ‘somewhat effective’.
  • The most commonly cited teaching method being used at business schools is live videoconferencing systems from PC, which 89% of participants say is being used at their institutions. Other teaching methods used included; e-learning / MOOCs (34%); live virtual classrooms from studios (33%); and live online virtual classroom software PCs (26%). However, 80% also say that their School has still been able to offer some classroom-based learning over the past year.
Perceptions of the success of digital technology on business education
  • 52% of Business School leaders believe that online teaching methods are ‘the same as’, ‘somewhat better’, or ‘much better’ than traditional classroom teaching.
  • 48% admitted online teaching methods were ‘somewhat worse’ than a traditional classroom experience.
  • 76% of participants believe less travel for students was the biggest advantage of online teaching; 71% value the fact that they could record sessions; 71% value the reduction in travel time for staff enabled by online teaching; and 70% think the biggest advantage is international collaboration.
  • The major challenges faced by business school leaders when delivering online education include connection issues from students (cited by 85% of respondents); lack of student engagement (73%); changing the design of programmes to make them suitable for students (61%); and connection issues from educators (55%).
  • 73% of Business School leaders believe the biggest problem with online teaching is transforming courses to fit an online format. Other problems frequently cited by survey participants include gaining feedback from students on their understanding (cited by 52% of respondents).
  • 45% believe that technology is ineffective at delivering networking opportunities; 39% think online technology is ineffective when it comes to soft skills development; and 37% believe technology had not been effective at delivering wellbeing initiatives for students in their institutions.
  • 87% think online technology was either ‘somewhat effective’ or ‘very effective’ in delivering flexibility in learning; and more than two thirds (67%) rated the effectiveness of online technology in supporting team projects and collaboration.
Looking ahead
  • 82% of business schools are planning to invest further in technology over the coming two years to enable online teaching; while 18% are not sure or are considering it. No survey participant said they were not intending to invest in online teaching methods.
  • Business school leaders predict that blended and hybrid models will replace the traditional classroom-based delivery of courses in the next five years. Using the MBA programme as an example, 21% of leaders think MBA programmes will be taught in a traditional classroom format in five years, while 38% believe blended delivery will be the most prevalent form of teaching; and 38% predict a hybrid approach.
  • Digitalisation is deemed to be the most important concept in the running of a business school over the next 10 years, with almost two thirds of leaders (63%) believing it to be very important.
  • 83% of leaders think it is either ‘very likely’ or ‘fairly likely’ that the fundamentals of the MBA will change in the next 10 years, compared with 77% who were of this opinion in late 2019.

The next steps for business school leaders across the world is to move from crisis mode to further innovation to develop and finesse their tech strategy as global economies start to move into recovery as vaccines reduce the impact of COVID-19.

From traditional classroom to blended and hybrid models

Business school leaders understandably predict that blended and hybrid models will replace the traditional classroom-based delivery of courses in the next five years – and, as such, this is where their planning time and budget will be allocated in the medium term.

Digitalisation is deemed to be the most important concept in the running of a business school over the next 10 years, with almost two thirds of leaders (63%) believing it to be very important.

A whopping 83% of leaders think it is either ‘very likely’ or ‘fairly likely’ that the fundamentals of the MBA will change in the next 10 years, compared with 76% who were of this opinion in late 2019.

The overarching take-away from this research is that things will never be the same as they were pre-COVID-19. A new era – one we’d previously debated and considered – has arrived almost overnight.

Last year, for many, represented a tipping point in terms of education technology and was the year business school leaders crossed the Rubicon into unchartered tech territory and into a future that has, undoubtedly, taken business education into a new phase from which we can never return.

We hope that this report provides our network with a chance to reflect on the breadth of exciting technology that made business education possible in 2020 and provides some food for thought for the future as we move into a ‘new normal’ in 2021.

In 2020, the door to a new era opened to us, fast-forwarding the whole of society into a future we were not expecting – what unfolds now is the ‘new normal’. In education, these challenging times called for lightspeed measures to ensure learning continuity: institutions had to quickly react, and teaching went entirely online overnight; the usual face-to-face learning being replaced digitally in an overwhelming majority.

Simone Hammer, Global Marketing Manager for Learning Experience at Barco

While we do not yet know when the COVID-19 crisis will be over, we do have one certainty: education and teaching have been transformed irreversibly, as the resistance to remote learning and the preconceptions associated with it have diminished significantly.

The ‘new normal’ in education is digital and flexible, transcending geographies and spanning the globe, overcoming borders and cultural barriers.

As learners have experienced during the past year, there is not one way of learning, but a myriad which will be delivered in various blended ways – face-to-face, fully remote or hybrid/virtual, synchronous, or asynchronous.

A multi-disciplinary approach required

To match the evolving expectations of these different groups, accelerated by the ‘new normal’, digital transformation as a well-defined, long-term strategy in mind is key. This long-term strategy must have pedagogy at its heart.

Putting pedagogy first will require an in-depth reflection of the educational needs and objectives of learners and teachers, as well as of the methods to achieve these. It will also require a multi-disciplinary approach: programme directors working together with instructional designers and specialists in education technology, AV and IT, for a successful and sustainable result.

The data gathered by education technology tools can bring new and valuable insights into the way and amount students engage when taught and enable improvements and redesigns of the learning journey for enhanced experiences.

Further on, business schools will be able to expand farther than ever, teaching to a pool of students wider than ever, scaling their teaching to a global level and providing access to new segments of learners.

It will no longer matter where a student is geographically, business schools will be able to bring together into one virtual classroom the best talents worldwide.

We believe the future of education is bright and full of exciting possibilities for those who stay agile and are ready to embrace and adapt to this ‘new normal’ with a long-term vision, pedagogy at the forefront and technology as the catalyst for innovation.

David Woods-Hale | Director | Marketing and Communications | Association of MBAs | mail me|



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