The Impact of Artificial Intelligence in Business Education

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020
By Timothy Mescon
Image by iStock
Educators must prepare future workers for collaboration and success with AI, even as they help those workers adapt to the idea of sharing responsibilities with intelligent machines.

This article originally appeared in Invest Foresight magazine on February 22, 2020.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies (ET) are transforming modern business. Those changes will only accelerate over time. The business world needs agile and collaborative problem-solvers to manage these global changes. Technology literacy will be essential for future business leaders to thrive.

The means by which future leaders develop technology literacy are as important as the knowledge itself. Indeed, those who control the research and training required to succeed in the AI-enabled workplace will define industry standards for a new era in human history. Technology and talent must go hand in hand as we shape our collective industrial future.

This puts educators at the forefront of industrial transformation—and not just in technical fields. Business educators, too, must motivate learners to embrace new technologies and understand how they will be applied in future enterprises. As AI systems sense, think, learn, and take action in shared workspaces, it’s today’s business students who must understand and successfully collaborate with AI in their future professional roles.

That’s why AACSB and our accredited business schools are preparing leaders for a future that does not yet exist. Companies are still transitioning into adopting disruptive technologies that require AI-enabled workplace skills. But it falls to business educators now to identify the skill sets and qualities employees will need to thrive in a future where AI is more prevalent.

How AI Is Shaping Future Workforces

Artificial Intelligence has already made a profound impact on both business and society. It is inevitable that most or all industries will be affected in some way by the proliferation of artificial intelligence.

In a shared research effort with Microsoft, McKinsey Global Institute estimates that roughly 50 percent of paid work can be automated by 2030. Many of these existing jobs are in manufacturing and service industries. But while knowledge work—decision-making, planning, and creative responsibilities—will be the hardest to automate and replace with AI, those workers will increasingly share their responsibilities with augmented intelligence—AI designed to help employees make better decisions.

In AACSB’s 2018 report on AI in business and business education, we found that roughly half of finance and insurance workers’ time is spent collecting and processing data, “where the technical potential for automation is high.” Business leaders must be prepared to instill a new mindset among their employees, one where embracing augmentation aligns with personal success. Employees must increasingly see smart machines as partners and collaborators in creative problem-solving, rather than as competitors.

But the right mindset is only part of the puzzle. Educators must prepare future workers for collaboration and success with AI, even as they help future workers adapt to the idea of sharing responsibilities with intelligent machines. Naturally, educators themselves must adapt as well, sharing their workspace with augmented intelligence designed to optimize students’ learning experiences. Increased personalization, greater accountability of students and faculty, and enhanced learning opportunities are critical for developing the shared-intelligence workforce that future industry will require.

How AI Can Be Used in Our Schools

The growing conversation around AI’s impact on future workforces has made emerging technologies a focus of higher education. After all, education and training will shape our future success with AI. It should come as no surprise, then, that populations and world governments are increasingly emphasizing education. Education will be among the fastest-growing occupations globally as a result.

Today, AI advancements increasingly happen in higher education settings, driven by learners, faculty members, and institutions. These breakthroughs, which occur in both classroom and research settings, fuel future technology literacy for companies, especially among students of business. Institutions themselves are realizing opportunities to incorporate AI to create more adaptive learning environments and to augment education with analytics, creative tools, and automated labor. Augmenting classroom environments gives analysts access to previously unseen performance metrics, allowing schools to improve classroom conditions and the outcomes of their academic programs.

The likelihood of growth in global support for teaching excellence programs is already high. Many AACSB member schools in particular have worldwide collaborative provision partnerships that emphasize teaching performance. Augmented intelligence can become a natural extension of a growing desire to improve student outcomes.

Emerging technologies provide more opportunities for extended learning as well—even as students enter new careers and business environments. The growing demand for new skill sets will drive workers to engage digital platforms that support lifelong learning. With the right support, higher educators have an opportunity to manage and implement these new learning environments. As we found in AACSB’s Collective Vision report, this development is an “opportunity for business schools to become Hubs of Lifelong Learning … [They can] connect individuals to business school expertise and experiences to create opportunities across career life cycles.”

Preparing Students for a Future With AI

Business leaders are reaching their own consensus about the skill sets their future employees must bring. AACSB finds that workers who combine traditional soft skills—communication, collaboration, and critical thinking—with technology literacy and other technical skills will be best equipped to meet those expectations.

Fortunately, this corresponds with a growing movement in higher education. More and more schools are finding creative ways to truly integrate liberal arts strengths with professional technical skills. At AACSB, business school members are networking and sharing best practices on emerging technologies and how to create the virtual classrooms of the future. As the pace of change increases, the schools that facilitate this process will grow in importance.

These new opportunities free educators to fully reimagine learning environments. Developers can adapt technology to students’ and educators’ needs, boosting desirable outcomes. Educators can reallocate time from automated tasks to personalized learning, building students’ soft skills, or contributing to more high-level initiatives at their institutions. In time, the traditional concept of a “teacher” may not fully describe the qualities and skills of tomorrow’s educators. Educators will have become so much more to undergraduates, to the companies that will eventually hire them, and to any individual looking for lifelong learning opportunities.

How AACSB Is Leading This Change

It’s difficult to imagine what the AI-educational experience will look like for tomorrow’s students. But even as we adopt emerging technologies in business and education, human capabilities like creativity, collaboration, and imagination remain critical to future society. It’s our goal at AACSB to cultivate human improvement and ingenuity, no matter how our collective technology landscape evolves.

Across the vast AACSB network, there are many other alliances, partnerships, exchanges, double- and triple-degree programs, and certificate programs aligned with the future workplace. We’re looking forward to an even richer global educational experience as these partnerships evolve. And as we cultivate greater engagement between industries and higher education, we’re looking forward to supporting the aspirational goals of future educators in higher education as well.

Timothy Mescon
Senior Vice President and Chief Officer, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, AACSB International
The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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