In the spring of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the use of remote learning technologies in classrooms of all types. This marked a rapid, focused shift in the way educators now use technology to teach.
The pandemic may have ebbed, but the results stuck. In a 2021 survey of 600 faculty and 800 students, global business consulting firm McKinsey found a 19 percent increase in the adoption of learning technologies since COVID-19 started.
Of course, distance-learning MBA programs have been using state-of-the-art tech as a teaching tool for decades. In fact, Suffolk University in Boston launched its online MBA back in 1999 and has been perfecting its student experience ever since.
When choosing an MBA program, whether it’s in-person or virtual, it’s worth considering how technology is embedded into the culture inside and outside the classroom. Business schools that use technologies well are more likely to be forward-thinking and on the cutting edge of global strategy.
Why MBA Programs Must Use Technology
Using industry-leading technology to teach business makes practical sense. The global marketplace relies increasingly on digital communication, data analysis tools, and artificial intelligence.
MBA programs, especially, need to incorporate tech innovation as a teaching tool. Today’s business leaders need a strong understanding of machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Virtual Reality (VR) tools. These technologies are becoming more vital in business as organizations look to optimize processes and cut operating costs. Getting familiar with them in the classroom puts students ahead of the learning curve when it’s time to execute strategically.
By relying on these tools throughout your time in business school, you’re not just learning what to do. You’re learning how to do it. Teaching this way gives students an organic understanding of up-and-coming in-demand skills, like business intelligence which uses technology to turn raw data into actionable insights. Something ultra important given the world is expected to generate 180 zettabytes globally by 2025.
All of the learning technologies that McKinsey analyzed were viewed positively by the majority of students surveyed. A few were considered superior to others for boosting academic performance and enhancing educational outcomes. Some of the different ways that business schools use these favorable-viewed technologies to teach include:
1. The Online Classroom
One of the most significant shifts in how business schools use technology relates to team building and connectivity.
Tools that mimic and recreate a traditional classroom experience are now readily available and easy to adapt to a wide variety of applications. For example, in all of Suffolk University’s Online MBA courses, discussion boards imitate a social media forum where people can formally and informally connect. Before classes even begin, students upload an introduction video so their peers can get to know them.
Once learning begins, the process in Suffolk’s Learning Management System (LMS) is highly engaging and interactive. Students can participate in casual conversations about their assignments and also ask questions about course content and activities.
Some tasks take place on discussion boards, where students are asked to practically apply what they learned that week to hypothetical situations. By reading other posted answers, students can share different viewpoints, learn from each other, and gain various perspectives.
2. Live Virtual Learning Sessions
Many of Suffolk’s courses offer students the ability to work together to apply tools, techniques, and concepts learned throughout the MBA program to real-life client situations.
Students investigate a problem and present their findings and recommended solutions to an assigned client. It’s not just an assignment. It’s a networking opportunity for students to showcase their skills to top-tier organizations that often work on the global stage, and some students have received job offers afterward.
The live sessions allow students to practice leading meetings and giving presentations. MBA students at Suffolk demonstrate what they have learned using live, interactive platforms, including Zoom. They learn from subject matter experts – their instructors – who share their own real-world experiences.
3. Augmented and Virtual Reality
McKinsey notes in their research that technologies that require specialized equipment, such as augmented reality (AR), tend to lag behind in their rate of adoption.
But Suffolk’s Online MBA does integrate augmented reality into its advanced coursework curriculum. One course, in particular, is a semester-long business case simulation where students practice their problem-solving skills. Students learn about principal concepts, frameworks, and techniques of strategic management. They then apply these concepts from the standpoint of a practicing manager.
To enhance the experience, this simulation involves multiple rounds of competition with other student groups. The competition tests both students’ ability to create shareholder value (earning performance) and their ability to conceptualize and implement corporate and business strategies (learning performance).
4. High-Touch Student Engagement
McKinsey’s research also found that 80 percent of students cited classroom exercises as the biggest booster of their academic performance during remote learning. Universities strive for unique features that boost learning retention and make classes more engaging.
Continuous improvement is a point of difference at Suffolk University. Their Instructional Designers work tirelessly to ensure content is up-to-date and delivered in ways that appeal to tech-savvy users. Components such as videos or other outsourced content are constantly monitored for glitches or broken links. If anything receives negative feedback, an update occurs before the next class starts.
All of Suffolk’s online MBA courses contain interactive elements like click-and-reveals, debates, polls, and questions where students can view their classmates’ responses. Many of the live sessions utilize breakout rooms for students to work together to complete tasks.
Using a mixture of these elements allows business schools to avoid a sterile learning environment where students are simply viewing a lecture. Class modules can be designed to stimulate engagement throughout each classroom session and even be entertaining for students.
5. Productivity Metrics
Metrics give leaders objective insight into performance, helping them streamline processes and make sound decisions. Making use of modern data tools is essential to business strategy.
The New York Times recently documented the rise of the worker productivity score. MBA graduates won’t just be earning these scores in their workplaces. They will likely discuss this type of data with their employees from a leadership perspective and determine whether and if this type of tracking is ethical and effective.
While Suffolk doesn’t track and monitor students like businesses listed in the article, the LMS allows them to play with similar functionality by receiving and contributing to a “value-added” score. Professors mark their in-class contributions for quality and thoughtfulness, and there is an option to do “peer evaluations” to express how well individual team members contributed to a team project.
6. Faculty Accessibility
New technologies can put business school instructors within the arm’s reach of remote learners.
Suffolk’s instructors connect with students via traditional means, such as phone calls during office hours and frequent emails. But they can also connect via discussion boards on their LMS and a dedicated Q&A discussion board for their individual classes.
Their high-touch faculty stay in constant contact with students through regular announcements that communicate classroom expectations. Faculty reach out to students at least once a week.
7. Team Building
Technology creates opportunities for students to work together in ways that resemble real-life business teams. Whether it’s an in-class assignment or a longer, semester-length capstone project, students are responsible for connecting with each other to brainstorm, develop solutions, and create meeting-quality presentations. This kind of immersive MBA experience creates practical and long-lasting learning.
To ensure that all students work together collaboratively, group members in Suffolk’s Online MBA use the above-mentioned “peer evaluations” tool to rate and provide feedback to their teammates. This helps students recognize their strengths and weaknesses and become better contributors.
Adapting to new technologies isn’t always easy. Students and faculty won’t all have the same level of tech expertise when a program begins. For some, these technologies might already be deeply embedded into their lifestyle and work systems.
For others, integrating new tech into the learning process might require some adjustments. Suffolk students are granted access to a 24/7 IT help desk to assist with these adjustments.
McKinsey’s case studies and expert interviews found that IT professionals, faculty, administrators, and students must be aligned when new technologies are implemented. This type of alignment can be established through feedback from students and ongoing conversations with tech professionals who understand the user experience.
The faculty that McKinsey interviewed concluded that adapting to and implementing new technologies wasn’t always easy, but they found any additional effort to be ultimately worth it in terms of return on investment.
Emphasizing the use of technology doesn’t mean that schools lose their human component. When they are implemented efficiently, these tools are meant to give business leaders more time to efficiently and compassionately lead their teams.
As you research how business schools use technology, it’s worth noting which schools are playing catch-up and which are setting the industry standards.
Find out more about Suffolk University’s MBA Online by downloading the program guide.