The evolution of technology, coupled with global changes in work dynamics, has catapulted online education into the spotlight. As we step into 2024, the realm of business education is set to change, particularly in the domain of Online MBA programs. So what does the future hold for these digital degrees?
We spoke to three leading business schools around the world to find out.
Michael Nowlis, director of MBA programs at Imperial College Business School, expects that advancements in technology will shape the online learning landscape in 2024 – with big implications for the student experience.
“AI is playing a significant role in customizing learning experiences,” he says. “Adaptive learning platforms can analyze individual student data, so as to tailor content, pacing and assessments, ensuring personalized learning pathways for each student.”
Nowlis adds that virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) are being integrated into online education, offering immersive experiences whereby students can explore prototype business concepts, conduct complex financial experiments, and practice leadership skills in simulated environments.
“Technology is revolutionizing online learning in many other ways as well – blockchain credentialing, enhanced collaboration platforms and powerful learning analytics,” he points out.
Moreover, he says that certain trends are anticipated to drive the demand for Online MBA programs as well. “While leading MBA programs have been moving online for the last decade, the COVID pandemic accelerated this transition through the development of innovative pedagogies and learning methodologies,” Nowlis explains.
Remote work will propel online education
As professionals adapt to remote work environments, he says that online education becomes a natural choice for some, eliminating geographical barriers. “In today’s increasingly global business environment, Online MBAs attract students worldwide, facilitating networking with diverse professionals from different countries, functional responsibilities and industries,” he adds.
That sentiment is echoed by the associate dean of MBA programs, Rosellina Ferraro at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “The trends of flexibility and convenience will continue to drive demand for Online MBA programs,” she predicts.
“Negative perceptions about the quality of education in online MBA programs have waned. So, students can now focus on finding the Online MBA program that best fits their professional goals and life circumstances,” she adds.
There will also be more expected demand for hybrid learning, with students desiring some instruction delivered in-person and some delivered online. And, with the rising popularity of alternative and micro-credentials, the global shift towards remote work and the increasing importance of continuous learning will influence the demand for Online MBA courses in 2024.
Ferraro says: “The shift to remote work reflects the continued desire for flexibility. Students can have access to programs offered across the country and across the world, giving them more choice. The desire for continuous learning may attract a more mature student looking to enhance their skill set or shift to a new career path entirely.”
Bradley Staats, the associate dean of MBA programs at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, agrees. “Students continue to want flexibility in how and where they learn – something an Online MBA program is well-suited for,” he says.
“Moreover, as technologies change, students realize the need for a dynamic education. Put a rapidly changing landscape together with a need for flexibility and you see a tremendous opportunity for Online MBA programs,” he adds.
Technological advances will shake up the virtual classroom
Technological advances will also shift what and how business schools like UNC Kenan-Flagler teach. “ChatGPT and other generative AI tools are altering what is taught in the classroom,” Staats says. “Programs need mechanisms to rapidly change.
“Moreover, these tools are making it easier to update existing asynchronous (self-paced) content, and offer entirely new content. A leading program has to be able -- and willing -- to be much more dynamic than ever before.”
Ferraro at the Smith School of Business makes a similar observation: “The advancements in AI technology are likely to have a significant impact on the learning landscape for all MBA programs, irrespective of delivery format,” she says.
“AI technology, such as ChatGPT, can be utilized by faculty to enhance the learning experience by creating engaging opportunities and challenging students to build on what AI can offer.”
But there are challenges on the horizon. With the rising popularity of alternative and micro-credentials, how might Online MBA programs need to adapt to remain competitive and relevant in 2024?
“While there is a good deal of discussion about the popularity of micro-credentials, it is still not clear that they are valued by employers,” states Ferraro. “The MBA is still a highly valued degree, but programs should offer specializations that are relevant to today’s business environment.”