By U M Amin
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has caused disruption in the education ecosystem at many levels. Business schools are no exception. From the sudden systemic transition to online learning early on in the crisis to the need to set health and safety guidelines, B-schools have had to rethink how everyone on their campuses work and study.
With the pandemic still appearing sporadically, its long-lasting impact remains difficult to predict. But many B-Schools are trying to determine the near and long-term effects that the crisis has had on their functioning, by asking administrators, faculty, and students how they’ve weathered the difficult time and what changes they believe have been the most significant so far.
All educators agree that the pandemic accelerated digital transformation. Suddenly, B-Schools had to co-ordinate work in a physically dispersed environment.
The changes have been more profound in the education sector, where technology has had less of impact than many experts predicted in previous years. A major aspect was the role of platforms, such as Webex, Google Meet, Microsoft Team and Zoom, in ensuring continuity of asynchronous teaching and learning when health restrictions made on-campus learning impossible. B-Schools were forced to shift quickly, almost overnight, to deliver instruction, facilitate peer-to-peer engagement and offer project-based experiential learning, all in a virtual environment. Faculty had to learn new digital skills and schools had to develop new models and capabilities.
Moving ahead, according to an AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) survey of 90 business school leaders, 83 percent of respondents said the pandemic would have a lasting impact on their programs. At the time of the survey, just 12.5 percent of MBA programs offered by responding schools were being offered entirely face-to-face. The remainder of MBA programs were being offered in some form of hybrid or online delivery. Other key findings include:
Nearly all respondents said that shifting to online delivery had the greatest impact among all changes brought in by COVID. Even when responding to categories other than delivery method, respondents often mentioned a second point related to delivery method. In looking forward, around 56 percent of business school leaders said delivery method was the greatest change the pandemic will have on the future of their school.
At the master’s level, the largest portion of respondents noted that their B-schools had adopted hybrid delivery models.
The pandemic has led many B-schools to change their strategic plans, but to differing degrees.
While the business school campus should remain a safe haven for networking, socializing, and extra-curricular activities, B-schools must now consider social distancing, ventilation, and hygiene policies.
Taken together, the findings above suggest that B-school education system is very much in flux, with the impact of COVID-19 still ongoing. As business schools continue to refine their programs in response to these trends, it will be interesting to see how their communities adjust to remote work; integrate more flexible delivery models into traditionally in-person programs; and support the well-being of their faculty, staff, and students.
To cope up with the new normal, it is suggested that faculty and administrators should ponder over following issues together with other stake holders which may lead them to a plan and enable them to adaptively return to the classroom.
Which ones of the changes effected during COVID 19 should be retained and the rationale for the same?
Given that some amount of the new technology should be retained, where and when does the use of these technologies make sense? Should some aspects of some classes remain remote in nature? If so, which ones?
How technology improves desired learning outcomes, and what are the impediments?
B-School administrators need to set policies about online classes, incorporating aspects such as desired learning outcomes and what are the impediments in the way.
What boundaries can be set considering that technology can lead to an “always available” mindset?
Needless to say, face-to-face classroom time and physical office hours were not feasible during the pandemic, many faculty found alternative ways to connect with students. As more B-Schools open up, faculty now need to decide how much, and what kind of access they wish to grant to students. It’s important that faculty create open lines of communication with students while protecting their own time.
As educators, we have been through a torrid time in higher education, and we must remember that our students have been through it with us. We must design return-to-campus strategies that make sense for everyone on campus, from administrators to faculty to students. And we must ask students which of those strategies will serve them best.
Our memories are surprisingly short, and it will soon be easy to forget how we felt and the future we envisioned during that stressful time and that is a matter of worry in times to come!
The author is professor of Strategy and Marketing at Jaipuria School of Business, Ghaziabad.