The Future of Business Education

MBA Blog / 8th February 2015

Alon Rozen 

Prediction 1. Deans will increasingly be asked to make predictions 

In an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (V.U.C.A.) world, using the US army’s terminology, education is facing disruption like most other sectors. As such, Deans are on the front lines of this new battlefield where business models are being rethought, redrafted, and reinvented. Innovation, which was previously a nice to have, has become a need to have. The cash cows of yesteryear, like the full time MBA, now require new approaches to ensure profitability. This requires a new generation of Deans whose gaze may now go beyond business education to focus on “the business of education” – as measured both by the top and bottom lines. 

As Deans are now forced to ameliorate their visual acuity in areas like the integration of technology with education (EdTech) and to elaborate new business models, it is only natural that they start acting like – and are considered like – CEOs; CEOs whose predictions are not speculative or simple futurology, but rather a reflection of the ongoing (and fascinating) revolution in business education.   

Prediction 2. V.U.C.A. will become a commonly-used adjective

In addition to those using V.U.C.A. to describe the world in Dean Prediction columns, it is clear that this term has struck a chord in modern business and is a faithful reflection of the prevailing zeitgeist. The apparent acceleration of the depth, breath and pace of change is such that V.U.C.A. seems to apply appropriately to all sectors of the economy.

In a V.U.C.A. business environment, the horizon of planning must inevitably decrease. Where business plans once had 10-year and then 5-year horizons, anything beyond three years now brings smiles to the faces of investors and Boards. Interestingly, career plans have followed a similar trajectory. What serious HR director today can discuss career plans more than three years out? What was once “tomorrow”, appears like an eternity in a V.U.C.A. world. 

What does this imply for business and management (education)? Well V.U.C.A. calls for agility, rapid innovation cycles, design thinking across all aspects of business and scrum-like project management (even for non-IT institutions). And business schools and consulting firms can expect to see growing demand for these skills for the years ahead.

Prediction 3. Artificial intelligence will not seem so artificial 

The pressure on business schools to evolve and the reigning V.U.C.A. reality are combining to accelerate the integration of artificial intelligence (A.I.) in education. 

For those not familiar with this aspect of EdTech, one of the major advantages of A.I. in education is the ability to seamlessly adapt the pace of teaching to the pace of learning of each individual. Initially this will be a differentiator for those able to deploy these technologies first, but rapidly learners everywhere will lose patience with any online course or e-learning that does not automatically adapt to them. And impatience is the first sign of a less-than optimal user experience… And in an increasingly customer-centric world (another prediction?), that is simply bad business.

The advent of A.I.-powered learning will hasten the generalization of another trend – the inverted classroom teaching approach. This approach makes classrooms the theatres of debate and critical thinking, rather than the locus of learning. A bonus prediction, possibly to be detailed in the future. Stay tuned or rather, in an A.I.-driven world, let the tune adapt to you.

Biography

Alon Rozen is Executive Dean of École des Ponts Business School in Paris, France.

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