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What the Future of Business Education Looks Like

Andrei Gordeev / Vedomosti

According to professors from Russia and the Netherlands.

Last year, the New Media Consortium released a report entitled "NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education," on how new technology will change higher education in the world in the near future. The report identified six technologies that, in the authors̕ opinion, are the most important.

1. Education using mobile devices: when students and teachers use their own electronic devices during for training. Experts expect the widespread dissemination of this practice, in spite of the problem of information security in schools. Thanks to devices, learning can occur at any time and in any place. Users can choose the device they are most comfortable with. The authors warn that the diversity of devices used by students and teachers requires the development of content that is compatible across a wide range of technologies.

2. The flipped classroom: one of the technologies that make mobile learning possible. This model involves the redistribution of time between the classroom and extracurricular training, when a student receives all the necessary knowledge at home, rather than in lectures, and the class reviews homework or works on group projects. According to experts, this method is more flexible and provides greater involvement of students in the learning process, creating a dynamic and creative environment in which students learn to think critically and to work on assigned tasks cooperatively.

3. Makerspaces: the organization of spaces for practical training. More and more people today favor practical training aimed at developing specific creative and engineering skills. There is a need for a new organization of spaces where students can meet, share their knowledge, experiment freely and create new things. These spaces are equipped with 3D printers and 3D scanners, and encourage students to work and develop skills beyond a training curriculum.

4. Wearable technology: after new devices such as Google Glass and smart watches from Apple and Samsung became widely available, a new category of wearable technology emerged, which in the medium term can be integrated into the educational process. These devices are increasingly used in sports today, but their applications in education is still an open question. However, experts point out that universities are not only working on using wearable technology in their curriculum, but also experimenting with fundamentally new technologies, such as neurointerfaces.

5. Adaptive learning technology: educational programs and platforms that take into account the individual needs of students. Demand for personalized training is constantly growing, so these technologies will solve problems arising in connection with the implementation of individual programs tailored to the needs and ability of individual students.

6. The Internet of Things: a whole ecosystem, bringing together networked technology for communication between people and devices. The use of the Internet of Things in universities will allow students to receive much necessary information directly from the environment (such as studying a locality from the point of view of architecture or history).

Experts say these technologies are no longer a fantasy in the learning process. The NMC report gives examples of their application in universities around the world. Vedomosti asked representatives of European business schools for their opinions on how new technologies will change business education in the near future.

Business schools will compete with training companies

Denis Konanchuk
Assistant Academic Dean,
Moscow School of Management Skolkovo

Education in general is a long-term investment, but business education can expect some rapid changes, with results that will be measurable within a year or two. This is partly due to the crisis and partly the general tendency toward concrete results from any action. Companies want to understand how to increase employee productivity in exchange for tuition fees they have paid, and the graduates themselves want to know how they can advance their careers, or how much money they will earn after completing an MBA program. The problem is that these criteria are difficult to measure, but this tendency (including the development of big data) will force business schools to show prospective students more and more numbers and other illustrative data.

More and more, business schools will create new knowledge and solutions for specific requests, tasks, teams and individuals, and not simply pass along theoretical knowledge and demonstrate it on real business cases. This is connected with business education moving beyond campus walls. Some practical and international units already exist, and this tendency will grow and take on increasingly bold forms, from extreme mountain climbing to launching a large-scale project in an unfamiliar country or region in a month. The most important thing that a business education can give is concentrated new experience, changing students' perceptions about themselves and their businesses.

Competition on the business education market is getting tougher. Business schools are gradually losing their monopoly. The new players on the market will not only be training companies and for-profit universities, which we are all used to, but even consulting firms running educational programs and successful online projects. Good examples of this are the professional social networks that are gaining ground on the market for online education. LinkedIn, for example, bought the successful educational project Lynda.com in the spring of 2015 for $1.5 billion).

Finally, one of the most important tendencies is that a business education will cease to be an attribute only of entrepreneurs and managers on a horizon of 5-10 years, and will gradually be integrated into the overall educational process of people with other professions and specializations. Knowledge management will be akin to IT and financial literacy: with the development of technology, few professions are likely to remain that do not require an understanding of organizational processes and basic knowledge management tools. Now business education is a shake-up for the brain for a specified period, from a couple of weeks to a year and a half, but in the future we can assume that it will be more evenly distributed over the process of career development in many professions.

Online education cannot compete

Steef van de Velde
Dean, Professor of Operations Management and Technology,
Rotterdam School of Management

I think business education will be in demand as long as there is business! The need for qualified leaders will not disappear in the foreseeable future. I think that professional training must be supplemented with some form of business education — it is a question of the survival of entire industries.

Of course, online education will undergo many changes in the near future. Nonetheless, I am certain that it will be not a competitor, but a supplement, to traditional business education. Options for its application are endless. By offering online content, teachers shift a significant portion of the education to the home, and there will be more time for discussion in the classroom. The combination of online and traditional forms implies greater flexibility in the planning of the educational process, and can literally overcome geographical boundaries for those wishing to get an education. Thus, I think online education creates a kind of added value to the traditional offerings of business schools.

The trend toward increasing various forms and areas of business education today is also clearly seen. There are opportunities for the in-depth study of some subjects and avoid other altogether. Business schools students are increasingly want programs that are directly related to their specific lifestyles and businesses. I suspect that program participants will become younger. I foresee business education becoming more interesting to more businessmen and people in general from other backgrounds.

Straight from grade school to business school

Christo Nel
International MBA Program Director,
Nyenrode Business Universiteit

I have no doubt that, in addition to the digital revolution, the next decade holds changes for business education related to the globalization of the economy, the increased role of national economies and so-called BRICS. One cannot discount broad issues such as mass migration, which makes the world truly multicultural. Traditional ideas about capitalism are collapsing under the pressure of global problems such as poverty and inequality. New technologies and social change will soon fundamentally alter all sectors of industry and society. These driving forces are converging to create a revolution that business education cannot ignore, because they will turn into serious challenges for universities and business schools.

Business schools will have to shift their focus from the traditional academic approach to practical forms, allowing for the study and solution of specific manufacturing problems. Programs will have to make quantum leaps in the development of so-called soft skills of contact with adversity, diversity and non-linear complexity, which will be useful even for the smallest of the organizations and teams.

On a purely technical level, business education will change because it will require flexible combined training to meet the needs of people with different competencies. Business education will increasingly depend on students' age. They will be able to go straight from school to business school with little or no management experience.