Editorial: The World of Graduate Management Education Turned Up Side Down

Advances in technology provide new opportunities to enhance learning

2012 Volume 15 Issue 2

Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics!

– Peter Drucker (1997)

Mobile learning has come a long way since Sir Isaac Pitman initiated the first correspondence course in the early 1840s and as the ring master at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus continues to say, “You haven’t seen anything yet.” Globalization is bringing about a radical rethink regarding the content and delivery of graduate management education. Today, any time, any where learning is playing an increasingly significant role in higher education, in general, and graduate management education in particular. Typically, mobile learning (M-learning) is defined as the acquisition of knowledge through conversations across multiple contexts via interactive technologies. A fundamental tenet of M-learning is that one size does not fit all. That is, students do not learn at the same pace and they are impacted differently by the learning environment. M-learning dramatically alters the three pillars of traditional graduate management education—fixed time, fixed location, fixed learning pace—with a student centric, flexible and customized learning environment.

Imagine an educational world where a student engaged in a program of graduate management education can enroll in specialty courses from a choice of accredited universities on a worldwide basis. Imagine the same world where a student can engage in a virtual internship, E2B experience, or in a global study team. That world is here today complements of M-learning. As Chick Hearn, fabled play-by-play man for the Los Angeles Lakers, said, “This game’s in the refrigerator! The doors closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard, and the Jell-O is jiggling….”

Here Comes Watson

Just about everyone is familiar with the performance of Watson (the IBM artificial intelligence “AI” program) on the game show Jeopardy! Image a world where every student enrolled in a graduate management program has their own version of a Watson. Another AI example is Khan Academy, a non-profit educational institution, that offers a wide range of interactive videos where students learn in a self-paced environment. These technological developments have brought about an increased interest in the use of intelligent tutors throughout the business school community. Intelligent tutors can be used to design lesson plans and learning experiences based on student performance and background. For example, if a student is having difficulty mastering a particular subject or theme as detected by testing, simulation, or self-assessment, then the intelligent tutor would prescribe specific additional learning content to the student. This content can take the form of videos, computing tutorials, or simulations. Generally speaking, the four basic characteristics of an intelligent tutor are: autonomy, pro-activity, adaptability, and sociability. A well-designed intelligent tutor should be able to assess the student’s current knowledge state and to modify both the content level and delivery mode accordingly.

Many MBA and related programs are increasingly focused on customization, experiential learning, and results assessment. M-learning supports these trends by providing tutorial support across both courses and programs. Offering the broadest range of tutorial instruction options optimizes students’ opportunities for effective learning and having a positive educational experience. The mobile learning paradigm also supports sustainability as it reduces the environmental footprint by moving towards a web-centric learning experience, thus reducing student commuting and reliance on traditional print books.

Dancing on the Cloud

The reformation in management education is being facilitated by the same networking and computing systems that revolutionized global commerce over the past two decades. Cloud computing represents an important resource in these developments. Cloud computing, simply defined, is the enabling of software, hardware, and related computing resources via the Internet for the purpose of developing problem solutions on demand. Increased flexibility, ongoing system updates, and cost reductions are but three of the major benefits associated with transferring most of the heavy computational lift to the Web. This same cloud computing approach can be used in graduate management education. On the cloud, students will use only the specific applications associated with the course instead of having to download and master a large software computing package where most of the embedded functions are not used. This is analogous to e-books that contain only those chapters that are actually going to be utilized in the course. Exposing students to the cloud in a program of graduate management education well positions them to the realities of the modern workplace.

Faculty Collaboration Networks

Higher education is undergoing a fundamental shift from a teacher-centric process to a learning-centric environment that focuses on customized learning. In graduate management education this transformation is being fueled by the need to produce educated managers that can compete on a global basis. A management education collaborative network is a learning-centric virtual structure that focuses on enhancing the education process and solving issues within the academic community. The primary goal of a collaboration network is to provide a platform where the management education community can converge, share and exchange ideas to drive innovation in student learning opportunities.

Specific objectives of the network include:

1)     To provide an outlet for interchange among faculty on emerging topics,

2)     To identify faculty expertise in these topics, and

3)     To provide university leadership a sounding board for critical policy issues.

Three key characteristics of an effective collaboration network are:

  • Coordination (ease of use and access),
  • Communication (capability to share information), and
  • Cooperation (supports task groups realization).

By developing a robust, sustainable and accessible cloud-based knowledge-exchange portal educators will be able to better develop solutions to the current and future challenges facing graduate management education. This will spur a whole new level of global communication and innovation which, in turn, will enhance the learning process and better connect students to the real world of business. In the new upside down learning model students will view tutorials and lectures in an asynchronous mode and venture to class where the emphasis will be on individual and team problem solving and presentations.

. . . and if all of this sounds to futuristic you can always reach out to the IT Help Desk.

About the Author(s)

Owen P. Hall, Jr., PE, PhD, holds the Julian Virtue Professorship and is a Rothschild Applied Research Fellow. He is a Professor of Decision Sciences at Pepperdine University’s Graziado School of Business and Management. He has more than 35 years of academic and industry experience in mobile learning technologies and business analytics.

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