Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Shaping the future of management education

By the end of this decade we can see two trends emerging—the true globalisation of Indian management education and much higher usage of technology.

For the past several decades, management education has been one of the most coveted disciplines globally. Applicants seek quality education that can fast-track their understanding of economies and business. Corporate firms are looking for job-ready individuals who can understand the bigger picture and contribute to their growth story. Business school graduates are driving change through leadership positions across industries and sectors.

Being a relatively recent discipline and the one that is context-specific, management education must undergo frequent changes. Innovate or die is the mantra that business schools have to adopt in order to stay relevant. They must appreciate the changes in the way business is done and accordingly review their curriculum, methodology and people. Business schools that insist on following the traditional approach will be doing a disservice to their students and to the recruiters as well.

The decade gone by saw two significant changes that management schools went through. The first was in terms of student profile. Diversity came into focus. Scholarship programmes were started for women students. Students with work experience across industries were invited back to the classroom—for this, the focus in the entrance criteria shifted from test scores alone to the candidate’s experience and exposure. Several business schools changed their entrance criteria and started giving credit to qualities beyond a test score. For example, in 2009, the School of Inspired Leadership introduced Caliper, a profiling tool that tests applicants for their leadership potential. The intent was to strengthen the diversity in business school classrooms.

The second change was industry involvement. Increasingly, senior executives became more conscious of the importance of contributing to education and were willing to make the time for this across business schools. They came on board as mentors, visiting faculty, guest speakers and for research collaborations, offering live projects—over and above industry internships—which gave students the opportunity to learn in a real-world setting under the guidance of seasoned professionals. Looking ahead, we can see two trends emerging—one is the globalisation of management education and the other is the increasing use of technology.

The world has definitely shrunk and business schools must swim with this tide. More and more students today ask for global exposure. While exchange programmes have long been part of the business school curriculum, now joint degrees are being offered as well, which lead to a diverse learning experience.

The time-honoured case study method of business schools is also being augmented by global immersion experiences where students do a live project overseas. This kind of real-world exposure in a different context and setting can prepare students for global leadership roles—much needed in today’s corporate context.

Increasingly, business schools are playing host to India immersion programmes for senior executives of other nationalities. They partner with other business schools and consulting firms to arrange a learning experience for their executive education programme participants. Recently, we met a delegation of women leaders from Chile to share with them our inspired leadership model. Such dialogues increase awareness about the Indian education system and deepen global partnerships, which, in turn, pave the way for students to enhance their learning.

One of the biggest reasons for this kind of cross-cultural exposure is the increased use of technology in the current business setting. This, in itself, is another upcoming trend in higher education today. Till recently, technology-related discussions may have been restricted to the MIS or statistics classrooms. Soon, technology will make its way into every classroom.

Going forward, the acute shortage of credible faculty and the resulting costs will lead to greater acceptance of online courseware. This can be of two types—recorded videos of in-house faculty or MOOCs (massive open online courses) by other schools. MOOCs are available freely across subject areas. MOOCs also give an opportunity to students to add to their repertoire of skills and improve the opportunities available to them after college. Today, a hybrid model of online and offline learning is developing the world over to maximise student learning potential.

In today’s digital era, an in-depth technical orientation is critical in every branch of learning. Across the board, technology has seeped into management subjects. Social media awareness in marketing, big data analytics, tech-based innovation, knowledge management, e-commerce and HR analytics are all gaining importance. Faculty and learners alike must be able to dissect data and be conversant with technology.

Business schools are fast accepting this fact and conversations are on about how to get the best faculty on board for this. Superior learning can happen if faculty has first-hand exposure to these areas. For this, the current trend of industry involvement as faculty is essential to make students job-ready.

Further, tech-savvy professors are also starting conversations through communities of practice on social media commons such as LinkedIn, SlideShare and others. This enables them to learn about the best practices from across the globe and selectively apply what is appropriate to their context. The rate of change of curriculum has to keep up with this tech-enabled speed of knowledge sharing and dissemination.

This invigorating combination of globalisation and technology-orientation will make business schools the best place to learn and grow. Those who keep pace with this transformation will emerge as winners in the minds of their students and industry partners as well.


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