Is the convenience of online learning a boon or a hindrance? Who defines “essential workers” and how? These are the kinds of open questions surging to the forefront in business education, which promises to be as transformed by Covid-19 as everything else. How might these questions be resolved in the months and years to come?
This month, we’re shaking up our Faculty Spotlight series in order to take a multi-part look at the effects of this crisis – featuring insights, reflection and expertise from leading faculty who have been recognized with the Aspen Institute Ideas Worth Teaching Award. Each installment collects the diverse responses to a single interview question. This week we ask:
What are your top three predictions for how this crisis will impact the business education landscape?
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Nicholas McGuigan and Alessandro Ghio | Monash University
This crisis is forcing business educators to critically question their syllabi. What stood six weeks ago is unlikely to be the case today. The reliance on one global market, economic rationality and the standardised approach to organisational governance and accountability leaves us vulnerable. Just like planted crops, a globalised economic monoculture cannot withstand an invasive virus. Human strength comes from diversity – ideas, systems, economies and people – business education syllabi will need to evolve to provide such diversity.
Social distancing is prompting business schools to rethink how they are connecting with their stakeholders. Spatial connecting is becoming the new norm where the blurring of physical and virtual interaction is likely to continue.
The drastic push around the world to deliver instantly and online will result in an increased demand from students and administrators alike for instant, short-term educational solutions. We predict the convenience of streaming learning will replace the problematic inconvenience humans often experience when engaging in transformative learning. This is dangerous.
— Nicholas McGuigan and Alessandro Ghio teach Global Issues in Accounting
Regina Abrami | The Wharton School of Business
Uncertainty is everywhere. The teaching of managing uncertainty will increase, but as a field of expertise no longer owned solely by financial modelers, sentiment scrapers, and other data scientists.
Government matters. Business students are likely to grow more eager for context-rich frameworks that explain political behavior at the macro-level, possibly with emphasis on comparative institutional analysis and the study of law.
Communication is a leadership skill. Business students had already embraced the power of storytelling, but largely as a sideline club activity or possibly on the way to launching a start-up. The aftermath of Corvid-19 shows however that the art of leadership and influence is more than just a good storyline. It is about transparency and empathy for those in your audience. Our leaders excelled best when they embodied both aspects. Students are likely to seek classes that help them to understand not only themselves but also how to “get real” with others. Given this, I would expect greater interest in classes that focus on group processes (organizational and team dynamics) or the humanities as a means to connect them with the human condition.
— Regina Abrami teaches Fault Lines & Foresight
Robert Sroufe | Duquesne University
We need to develop and deliver courses that help decision makers model and deal with complex problems and uncertainty. We can shape the evolving educational landscape to help business leaders of the future make better decisions that do not contribute to complex problems, but instead enable the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
When there is a new issue, academics can be a voice of reason, breaking down the complexity while contributing to selling solutions (not marketing problems) at the intersection of business and society as we engage the public with evidence-based research and bring these issues into our classrooms.
A greater realization that we can value and include in decision making the importance of human capital (social sustainability and integrated management) within enterprises, value chains and economies. By doing this, we will be able to show the costs of inaction far outweigh the costs and benefits of taking preemptive actions.
— Robert Sroufe teaches Sustainability Tools & Processes for New Initiatives
Melissa Bradley | Georgetown University
Virtual and remote education will continue to increase. This will ideally increase access for students, while reducing some of their costs to participate.
Micro-classes will become popular. Instead of semester-long classes, the focus will be on deeper, focused content in shorter periods of time. The semester may become a false framework for teaching and modules – from 3-6 weeks – will become more popular.
Colleges will form more partnerships with tech companies to improve their current capacity. These partnerships will be based on infrastructure and content.
— Melissa Bradley teaches Peer to Peer Economies
Jerry Davis | University of Michigan
Format: At the MBA level, we will rapidly move toward a more online-centered form of education. Online means that learners need not step out of their worklife to move to a specific campus, so part-time or weekend programs become more plausible. (The Ross Online MBA program is a good example: https://michiganross.umich.edu/graduate/online-mba).
Content: Our current experience is demonstrating that more and more work can and will be done remotely. MBA programs should train students how to lead dispersed teams effectively, training them both in the tools for virtual collaboration and in the leadership techniques for sharing a vision, creating trust, tracking progress, and bringing work to completion even when you might never see your team face-to-face.
What is an enterprise?: The crisis will speed up a trend already underway: increasingly, business will be done by projects and pop-up enterprises, not by ongoing organizations. I expect to see business education start to de-emphasize traditional long-lasting, asset-heavy public corporations in favor of projects organized in dispersed and temporary formats. “Virtual organization design” of the sort that Melissa Valentine at Stanford has been researching will become increasingly part of the curriculum. (See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/12/business/economy/flash-organizations-labor.html)
— Jerry Davis teaches Intrapreneurship: Leading Social Innovation in Organizations
Jadranka Skorin-Kapov | Stony Brook
Since the technology is evolving very fast, it is difficult to predict the future. However, I believe that the need to depend heavily on long-distance technology in this time of crisis will result in more pronounced usage of technology supporting online education after the crisis.
The interconnectedness of the world economy visible in this time of crisis will probably necessitate teaching more systematically, and in greater detail, about foreign economies.
Business education will need to give more space to teaching about societal impacts and humanistic concerns, in addition to calculation of profits and bottom lines. This also involves educating students to be better prepared for job changes due to technological and societal shifts.
— Jadranka Skorin-Kapov teaches Business Ethics: Critical Thinking Through Film
Sarah Birrell Ivory | University of Edinburgh Business School
The role of business as a contributor to society will be re-examined. In particular, we will (re)discover the importance of businesses providing jobs to people, not just returns to shareholders, but also business classrooms will debate ‘what is an essential service’?
Online learning will become more and less important. More important because educators are having to learn at pace how to use and deploy the technology, and so we will see it deployed more during courses in the future. But less important as we (re)discover the importance of physical presence and human contact in building relationships, confidence, and team learning and solutions, which are lacking in an online space.
The Covid crisis gives society some useful learning parallels for what the climate crisis has in store. But it also offers hope for how society has the capability to change in the face of such threats. Business educators can use these lessons to teach and influence the rebuilding of our society and economy after this crisis so that we can avoid the worst outcomes, and better cope with the now unavoidable impacts of the climate crisis.
— Sarah Birrell Ivory teaches Global Challenges for Business