Business schools are preparing students for the future of work, iterating and redesigning their programs to get out ahead of industry trends and develop content that carries both immediate relevancy while also offering lasting, even lifetime, value. This is certainly a tall order, but is a challenge that many business schools have taken on. The recently concluded Curriculum Conference: Re(Invest+Think+Design) explored ways in which a curriculum may be redesigned to balance these needs. As a precursor to this conference, AACSB hosted three symposia on the topic of Redesigning the MBA. The symposia agendas focused on a number of topical areas relevant to the MBA, including items such as managing in a global context, leadership development, innovation and creativity, critical thinking and communication skills, and experiential learning. We reached out to the attendees of those symposia years later, to check-in and see what changes had been made to their programs following their time at the event.
What we found was quite intriguing. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed indicated that they had attended the symposium because their school was either considering or in the midst of an MBA redesign. As such, it was not surprising that since attending the symposia, 64 percent of respondents reported changes made to their MBA curriculum and/or program (86 percent of those stating that the symposium impacted the redesign). When asked what changes were made, 81 percent of respondents noted changes had been made to course or program content; 41 percent shared that changes had been made to their program’s architecture (which would consist largely of formatting changes, e.g., changing credit hour requirements); and 37 percent mentioned changes in pedagogical approach (such as new modes of teaching delivery).
Many of the content-related changes involved the creation of a new set of coursework, including business plan capstones, professional development (and "soft" competency development) activities, and case competitions. Some schools have sought to close the gap between academe and industry. For instance, a school in India noted the creation of a program that partners students with businesses for their final term, with the student working in an internship-like capacity. A U.K.-based university has developed a module designed for the student's personal career development, focusing on self-reflection and post-graduation planning.
With respect to architectural changes, schools reported a wide range of outcomes, from tweaks to entire overhauls of their programs. Some of the reported changes were more minor in nature, such as a school in Canada that gave MBA students the option of waiving two courses if they would instead complete a project. A more significant change came from a school in India, which changed from a trimester system to a semester system, along with redesigning several existing courses and introducing a new foundations program for incoming students. Several schools reported reducing the credit-hour requirement on “core” coursework, or essential classes, while increasing elective credit-hour requirements. Changes of this sort may be aimed at providing students with added flexibility in catering their studies to their own preferences and career aspirations.
The pedagogical changes were just as varied, with schools implementing new modes of delivery, such as online and distance-learning courses. Additionally, there has been a growth in focus on creating learning environments and objectives that are experiential in nature. One school in Oceania mentioned a changed pedagogical approach to teaching through the introduction of an experientially based strategic consulting program. A school in Canada introduced a preparatory math and Microsoft Excel (spreadsheet software) “boot camp,” designed to ensure that all students have an equal footing in these areas.
If you are interested in learning more about what other schools are doing within their curriculum and what should be done to better prepare your school’s programming for the future, keep your eye on the Curriculum Development Series. Until then, what has your school been redesigning in the curriculum?