The Future of Graduate Business Education: The Adaptive MBA

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1 The Future of Graduate Business Education: The Adaptive MBA ROBERT MANZER, PH.D. & JUDY BULLOCK, PH.D.

2 As the way we conduct business evolves, so must our tools for professional success. While the Master of Business Administration (MBA) plays an integral role in business achievement today and has for decades, its structure and mode of delivery have seen significant shifts over time as programs align with ever-evolving societal and industry needs. The idea of graduate-level business programs was, to a degree, unorthodox when it originated in the early 20 th century. The practical, applied focus of the MBA represented a significant shift from traditional higher education, which was firmly rooted in theory and research. Today, the MBA is a well-respected and often expected step in the educational journey of senior business leaders. More than 191,000 students graduated with master s degrees in business in 2012, and in 2013 the post-graduation employment rate of those with professional MBAs rose to 95%. 1,2 Yet such broad acceptance of the MBA does not eliminate the need for institutions of higher education to continuously evaluate and update their programs, curricula and delivery modalities to ensure the degree remains relevant to students and employers. The MBA cannot be static if it is to continue serving the needs of individuals and companies during a time of rapid change. It will be important for institutions to develop more accessible, learner-centric and personalized pedagogy to meet the needs of a larger and more diverse group of MBA students. No longer considered the domain of the elite, today s MBA serves a vast group of working professionals, as diverse in their professions as they are in their learning styles and preparedness. To that end, it will be important for institutions to develop more accessible, learner-centric and personalized pedagogy to meet the needs of a larger and more diverse group of MBA students. We believe the MBA must adapt to the needs of this expanding group of students and provide the flexibility, focus and personalization that this group needs and demands. Fortunately, advances in educational technology and pedagogy now make possible a new solution: the adaptive learning-driven MBA. THE HISTORY OF THE MBA: ARISTOCRACY TO DEMOCRACY While the call for a technology-enabled MBA may sound like a dramatic shift antithetical to the slow evolution typical of academic institutions, the story of the MBA degree has always been one of dynamic change and evolution. Although the first collegiate business school was founded in 1881 and the first MBA program was offered not long after that in 1908, the American American InterContinental University The Future of Graduate Business Education: The Adaptive MBA 2

3 THE MBA OVER TIME 1881 First collegiate business school founded at Wharton 1908 World s first MBA program offered at Harvard University s Graduate School 4 of Administration First online MBA offered First adaptive learning-driven MBA launched by AIU First graduate school of management opened at Dartmouth College 9 Classic American MBA model was born s 100,000 students graduate every year from MBA programs Over 191,000 master s in business degrees conferred annually 1 MBA model as we know it today was not truly established until the late 1960s. 3,4,5 Once the province of an aristocratic few, this new two-year degree reflected a more practical focus and expanding access, trends that would continue in subsequent iterations. The later addition of the Executive MBA and the migration into online learning further evinced the shift to real-world learning and added many more students. All told, by the end of the 20 th -century, the MBA had largely shed its exclusivity to become a generally applicable and widely utilized badge signaling the possession of key skills and competencies. Such an MBA serves well the needs of today s organizations while accommodating a changing, more diverse workforce. With the dynamism of economic life and the fast-paced character of the modern business world, an expanding group of employees is now expected to have a broad knowledge base and the ability to take initiatives to improve their organizations. At the same time, the workforce is growing more diverse in age, educational background and professional experience. Where MBA programs once mainly attracted individuals who saw themselves moving into prestigious roles as leaders of major companies and consulting firms, the current complexity of running organizations of all kinds means that more and more individuals across sectors as well as across disciplines beyond business are going back to earn a master s degree in business. Adapting to this expanding pool of learners, colleges and universities strove to meet students where they are by developing flexible and convenient delivery models. Few of these new students had the luxury of full-time attendance in traditional graduate programs, many could attend only at night or on weekends, and others turned to asynchronous online learning to meet their needs. Today, 56% of all MBA students are enrolled in part-time programs, and part-time MBA enrollment increased 18% from 2002 to ,7 Such developments also point to the next step in meeting students where they are : an approach to teaching and learning that better accommodates the different ways people learn, the different paces at which they progress, and the different points from which they begin. THE MBA S NEXT STEP FORWARD: ADAPTIVE LEARNING In late 2013, IBM predicted that the classroom of the future will learn about each student over the course of their education, helping students master the skills critical to meeting their goals. 8 The company hypothesized that a cognitive technological system would someday be able to find out the students learning style and develop a plan that addresses their knowledge gaps. 8 In fact, this approach is already available, delivered via advanced adaptive learning technology. American InterContinental University The Future of Graduate Business Education: The Adaptive MBA 3

4 FOUNDATIONS FOR SUCCESS Today, professionals in many industries can benefit from an MBA, regardless of whether their undergraduate degree is in business administration. Adaptive learning technology not only can serve to more efficiently and effectively deliver graduate-level business education, but it also can better position incoming students to succeed who do not have an undergraduate degree in business. At AIU, MBA students entering the program without an undergraduate background in business complete a series of adaptive learning-driven foundations courses that cover the major core professional competencies underlying a business education program. This allows them to readily assess what they know and gain familiarity with concepts they re not as comfortable with or have not been exposed to so they have the foundation they need to move forward. These noadded-cost, non-credit bearing courses are available to students entering the MBA without an undergraduate degree in business administration. They are also available to students entering the MBA program with an undergraduate degree in business earned many years ago who desire a refresher on these core professional competencies. Adaptive learning technology combines a sophisticated analytical engine with robust instructional content to deliver data-driven personalized learning that gives instructors the unique ability to understand what students know on an individual level and identify where they have the greatest opportunity to grow their knowledge base. Truly learner-centric, adaptive learning allows students to guide the pace and sequence of instruction to ensure they aren t bored with content they already know or frustrated by a pace that might leave them behind. In this way, adaptive learning honors the knowledge and experience that each student brings to class and focuses their learning time on areas where they have gaps or need additional knowledge and skills. In April 2014, American InterContinental University (AIU) launched the first MBA program in the United States driven by adaptive learning technology. AIU s proprietary adaptive learning technology, intellipath TM, utilizes a comprehensive content map called a learning map to guide students through the curriculum based on the student s current knowledge state and optimal learning style. Continuous assessment allows the technology to adjust in real time to the student s learning needs, not only by delivering content in the format that has proven most successful during earlier modules, but by continuously retesting key competencies and providing refresher modules when students need them. The technology enables a new level of educational efficiency by focusing learning time on an individual s unique knowledge gaps, while skipping units or nodes in the map where the student has demonstrated proficiency either through earlier coursework or performance on the embedded assessments. Students are given constant, real-time feedback so that they can celebrate their successes, adjust their assumptions or drill down into challenge areas as they move through the map. This stands in stark contrast to the old-fashioned educational experience that had students wait until a mid-term exam to test their knowledge gains and find out where they have gaps often times at a point in the semester that makes it too late to fill the gap. Such a tailored approach adds value beyond the ability to deliver a truly customized learning experience. With an increasing number of MBA students entering the program through an indirect route meaning that they earned an undergraduate degree in a field other than business, but through work experience moved into a role that now requires them to have advanced business, management and finance skills adaptive learning allows us to ensure that all students have the fundamental business knowledge required for master s level coursework. Continuous assessment allows students to show proficiency in fundamental topics, whether learned in school or on the job, or to complete additional foundational learning modules to gain the basic skills upon which the MBA program builds. Adaptive learning allows us to serve students who work in a wide range of industries and who have vastly American InterContinental University The Future of Graduate Business Education: The Adaptive MBA 4

5 different educational and work backgrounds while ensuring that the MBA program remains rigorous and comprehensive. AIU s intellipath TM technology generates 11 million data points daily about students abilities, challenges and learning paths. While adaptive testing, in which the answer to one question determines which question the student will be asked next, is becoming more common at all levels of education, including in standardized college and graduate school entrance exams, adaptive learning takes personalization to the next level. Adaptive learning not only assesses an individual s current knowledge state, but it uses that information to guide the learning that must take place in order for the student to meet the established course or program objectives. Since intellipath is a program-level adaptive learning technology, not only does it take students through individual courses, but it links the maps across the entire program so that there is continuity from one course to the next. Students don t waste time at the beginning of a new course repeating what was already learned in an earlier course, but if at some point in the future the student needs a refresher on a fundamental topic, the technology pulls that content forward into the current class so that the student can succeed in more advanced applications of knowledge. A NEW ACTIVE-LEARNING PATHWAY Adaptive learning technology such as AIU s intellipath platform does not reduce the importance of faculty in the learning process, but it does emphasize the student s responsibility in the learning partnership. As such, not only does the adaptive learning-driven MBA enable an asynchronous learning structure, it provides a learner-centric path, creating an environment in which even those who may not have been successful in traditional higher education have the opportunity to perform well. Under adaptive learning, instructors function more as supportive and expert coaches true guides by the side rather than sages on the stage and they are armed with an unprecedented amount of data about their students and their progress. Instructors receive very granular information in real time via analytics dashboards about each student s progress, pace and challenges. Informed by this information, they can communicate with students while they are engaged in adaptive learning exercises, can add supplemental content for students who need additional help and can add more advanced problems or applications to ensure that the strongest students don t get bored. In contrast, faculty have traditionally relied on high-stakes tests or professional intuition to assess whether what they have been teaching has resulted in effective learning on the part of the student. Indeed, instructors rarely know who has prepared for class and who hasn t and often times do not discover who is keeping pace and who is falling behind until it is too late. Students can become increasingly frustrated if the course is moving too fast or too slow, sometimes driving the student to leave school prematurely American InterContinental University The Future of Graduate Business Education: The Adaptive MBA 5

6 ADAPTIVE CONTENT & CURRICULUM The adaptive MBA works by utilizing discrete learning content, with every subconcept for every learning topic captured within different delivery mechanisms that appeal to corresponding learning styles, such as auditory, visual and kinesthetic. For the same lesson, there may be print, video, audio and interactive content so the information reaches the student in the way he or she best receives it. At the same time, faculty are able to specifically craft group engagements such as lectures and live chats as well as one-to-one student interactions to address specific student concerns, questions or issues, adding color and context with the real-world perspective they ve gained as industry specialists. and for the wrong reasons. Adaptive learning changes all of this, letting instructors know down to the minute how each student is progressing. Adaptive learning results don t just drive the individual learning maps for technology-assisted learning, but they also inform an instructor s individualized communications with each student as well as whole-class lectures or activities. When intellipath indicates that a topic has been mastered by the whole class, that topic can be removed from the instructor s lecture, and synchronous-learning or class time can be better spent focused on a topic that fewer students fully understand. As a graduate program, the MBA must address the higher-level ability to analyze information, synthesize it and create a valid means of evaluation, and the adaptive learning-driven MBA goes beyond standard question types and interactions such as true/false, multiple choice and fill in the blank. Instead, it uses advanced question formats designed to elicit higher-order critical thinking, leveraging the student s ability to discern and differentiate patterns, groupings or sequencing of information to address a progressive series of scenarios in which a student s answers affect how the case develops. CONCLUSION: THE EVOLUTION CONTINUES AIU s adaptive learning-driven MBA is an important next step toward meeting the needs of an expanding, increasingly diverse group of students seeking to advance their careers. As the business environment grows, changes, transforms and shifts, so too must the way we educate the next generation of leaders. Adaptive learning isn t just about a new way of delivering content, but instead it is a new way of teaching and learning that empowers students by making them the drivers of customized educational experiences. Accommodating vast differences in learning style, preparedness and background, the adaptive learning-driven MBA can expand access and opportunity for a dynamic, ever-growing, upwardly mobile professional workforce. American InterContinental University The Future of Graduate Business Education: The Adaptive MBA 6

7 ABOUT AMERICAN INTERCONTINENTAL UNIVERSITY AIU is dedicated to delivering specialized, personalized learning experiences through innovations in technology. Founded in 1970, the university offers undergraduate and graduate programs in business, healthcare, IT, criminal justice and education through an Internet-based online campus headquartered in suburban Chicago and at campuses in Atlanta and Houston. AIU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association. Its business administration degree programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). In the last 10 years, AIU has graduated more than 83,000 students through its online and ground campuses. ABOUT ROBERT MANZER, PH.D. Robert Manzer serves as Provost and Chief Academic Officer for American InterContinental University. Previously, he served as a higher education administrator at four other institutions and worked as a higher education consultant. A political scientist, he holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. from Carleton College. He has taught a wide range of political science courses and published articles in the leading journals of political science, including American Political Science Review and American Journal of Political Science. ABOUT JUDY BULLOCK, PH.D. Dr. Judy Bullock serves as the University Dean for the School of Business of American InterContinental University. She earned a Ph.D. in Business and pursued post-doctoral studies in psychology in addition to earning master s degrees in business administration, professional accounting and human resources management. Dr. Bullock has over 30 years of experience in public accounting, corporate finance and human resources. Past executive roles include serving as the Director of Worldwide Executive Compensation and Benefits of Deere & Company, the Chief Financial Officer of Sheffield Pharmaceuticals, and the Vice President of Human Resources of AutoNation. AIU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Find employment rates, financial obligations and other disclosures at American InterContinental University The Future of Graduate Business Education: The Adaptive MBA 7

8 SOURCES REFERENCED 1 Digest of Education Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics. Web. 19 June B-School Follow Up: Class of Graduate Management Admission Council. Web. 19 June Wharton History. Wharton, University of Pennsylvania. Web. 19 June History About Us. Harvard Business School. Web. 19 June The MBA some history. The Economist, 17 October Web. 19 June Business School Data Trends and 2011 List of Accredited Schools. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Web. 19 June Yeaple, Ronald. Does It Pay to Earn a Part-time MBA? Forbes, 4 June Web. 19 June The classroom will learn you. IBM Research. Web. Retrieved 12 May 2014 from 9 History. Tuck School of Business. Web. 19 June President s Message. Aspen University. Web. 19 June How Many US MBA Students Are There? GMAC Has the Award-Winning Answer. Graduate Management News, March Web. 19 June American InterContinental University The Future of Graduate Business Education: The Adaptive MBA 8

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