ICYMI: How to Prepare Students for the Future

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Wednesday, November 1, 2023
By Sharon Shinn
Photo by iStock/MangoStar_Studio
What technology should students learn in the classroom so they’re ready for the workplace? A quick overview from the AACSB Insights archives.
  • AI-based tools such as ChatGPT should be deployed in the classroom to help students learn the potential and pitfalls of this pervasive new technology.
  • Options such as virtual reality and collaborative online international learning can provide students with exposure to other cultures when travel isn’t an option.
  • Platforms that deliver remote instruction and microcredential courses allow students to learn in the ways that suit them best.

To prepare graduates for a rapidly evolving business environment, business schools must provide their students with the most up-do-date skills and tools they will need to succeed in the workplace. During the month of November, AACSB Insights has planned a number of articles exploring how schools are monitoring trends, adapting their programs, and embracing technology to ensure that students are job-ready.

Here, in case you missed them, we revisit 11 articles we have posted over the past few years that have addressed this same topic, which encompasses the changing workplace, the changing classroom, and the technology that is reshaping them both.

Everyone Needs to Know AI

It’s clear that artificial intelligence (AI) will transform the business world, so tomorrow’s leaders must know how to deploy it effectively and ethically. In “Disruptive Technology and the Future of Work,” Teresa Martinelli and Christine Jagannathan suggest three steps that business schools can take to make sure students understand the implications and possibilities of AI.

First, they say, schools should train faculty in the new tech by offering workshops, forming communities of practice, and supporting the development of AI-focused courses. Second, schools should develop specialized courses that teach students how to use and apply AI concepts. Finally, they should partner with tech companies so that both faculty and students have opportunities to use AI in real-world situations.

One of the newest and most controversial AI-based tools is ChatGPT, and George Sammour takes a closer look at it in “A Practical Agenda for Using AI in the Classroom.” While he notes that ChatGPT offers both challenges and benefits, he emphasizes that academic leaders need to understand both. He writes, “These tools may lead to increased plagiarism and cheating, but they also offer educators opportunities to reevaluate their assessment strategies and create more profound and significant learning experiences for students.”

Sammour suggests various exercises faculty can employ to educate students about the chatbot’s capabilities and limitations. For instance, professors could ask students to submit two essays on the same topic—one generated by ChatGPT, and one that students have written themselves—and then critique the differences.

But universities shouldn’t just study AI in the classroom, notes Johan Roos in “ChatGPT: The Next Firestorm in Education.” They should also roll it out in the administrative office. AI can make the admissions process more efficient, aid in curriculum design, and increase the accuracy of evaluating student performance, he says. AI also can assist faculty in their research by quickly identifying vast amounts of data, extracting insights from interview transcripts, removing errors, reducing bias, and generating “entirely new research methods that we have not yet imagined.”

International—But Digital

AI is not the only technology that’s redefining the classroom experience. Some schools are experimenting with virtual reality (VR)—which became particularly useful during the pandemic as a way to give students international exposure without requiring them to step beyond their national borders.

In “Sustainable Leadership: The Rainforest Perspective,” Fernanda Carreira, Daniela Gomes Pinto, and Marina Kuzuyabu describe how Fundação Getulio Vargas’s São Paulo School of Business Administration in Brazil uses VR to immerse students in the Amazon ecosystem. In a weeklong course, which is open to MBA students around the world through the Global Network for Advanced Management, they explore the topic of sustainability by looking at the ways people and the land impact each other.

Because of COVID-19, the first three iterations of the course were held completely online. Students took virtual tours of the rainforest; watched videos that featured traditional dances, musicians, and popular festivals; talked to diverse local community leaders; and heard from specialists in sustainability science. “Even held online,” the authors say, “the course has managed to circumvent some barriers and provoke enchantment.”

Virtual reality became useful during the pandemic as a way to give students international exposure without requiring them to step beyond their national borders.

Similarly, Loyola Marymount’s College of Business Administration in Los Angeles turned to VR as an alternative method of exposing students to unfamiliar business cultures. In “An Indigenous Alternative to International Travel,” Kelly Watson describes how the school used the tool to connect students with about 20 different Native American tribal leaders.

To enhance Zoom and conference calls, “all participating students and faculty members received Oculus Quest Goggles, which create VR simulations by connecting directly to the internet—no computers needed,” she writes. “We also could use VR technology to show students 360-degree videos that took them on virtual field trips to Indigenous communities and markets in India, New Zealand, and South America.”

While Loyola Marymount’s class was rolled out at the height of COVID-19, VR can enhance any classroom at any time. Writes Watson, “We realized that, in the future, we can use these technologies to immerse students in foreign cultural contexts, even to visit regions of the world where travel is difficult, unsafe, expensive, or culturally taboo.”

During the pandemic, more schools also began relying on collaborative online international learning (COIL) experiences to give students a taste of life in other countries. “COILs Create Common Connections” describes how the Trinity University School of Business in San Antonio, Texas, and Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico put together a five-week COIL in which teams of students from the two schools worked on joint assignments. Through these interactions, students developed their interpersonal skills, enhanced their problem-solving techniques, created deeper intercultural awareness, and mastered concepts of global citizenship.

“A COIL exchange can raise the awareness of the importance of diverse opinions and experiences so students critically consider all aspects of issues for optimal problem solving,” says Amy Foshee Holmes of Trinity University. “Students embrace cultural diversity and understand the importance of international collaboration.”

A Place for Student Interaction

As online learning becomes a fixture in higher education, it’s essential for schools to use technology that brings people together instead of making them feel more isolated.

“Today, we know that almost anything can be taught in a remote environment,” Tawnya Means says in “Faculty Must Be the Disruptors of Online Education.” “Now that we’ve made this pivot, we must turn our attention to ensuring a high-quality online experience.”

To make sure virtual learners are engaged with the material and feel connected to each other, Means suggests that faculty record video introductions, offer synchronous live discussions, and schedule group office hours. In addition, she says, professors could assign group projects and ask students to leave peer reviews to “provide learners with valuable engagement opportunities while allowing them to learn on their own schedules.”

As online learning becomes a fixture in higher education, it’s essential for schools to use technology that brings people together instead of making them feel more isolated.

Even when students are all in the same classroom at the same time, faculty should be “Using Tech to Enhance Engagement,” say Victoria L. Crittenden and Cheryl Gray. In a recent marketing class at Babson College in Wellesley Park, Massachusetts, the two of them encouraged student interactions by employing Yellowdig, an edtech platform that functions like social media.

Each week, Crittenden and Gray assigned reading material that students had to discuss on the platform, resulting in online conversations that highlighted a variety of perspectives. According to the authors, “By using technology tools that enable online conversations, in formats students are already comfortable using, we can boost student engagement considerably. In this way, we can turn otherwise tough discussions into rich, rewarding, and personal interactions.”

Microlearning, Macro Benefits

Technology is also an enabler of one of the biggest trends in education—microcredentials. These short, focused programs are usually offered online and allow learners “to acquire knowledge and develop skills in days, hours, or in some cases, even minutes,” as noted in “Meeting the Rising Demand for Microlearning.”

An example is the Build Your Own Course program that was piloted in 2021 by Rutgers Business School in Newark, New Jersey. BYOC allows students to stack four weeklong modules into a one-credit online course. More recently, Rutgers launched Short Courses in Business Innovation, a series of online one-credit graduate-level BYOC courses that enable working professionals to upskill at their own pace.

Other schools are also investing heavily in microcredentials as a way to attract students and keep them as lifelong learners. In “Reimagining the Credential Ecosystem,” Brooke Elliott describes how the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign is transforming its traditional degree-granting processes with microcredentials that stack onto the school’s other offerings.

The school’s portfolio now includes “everything from single skills-based microcourses to specialized graduate certificates to full degrees,” says Elliott. Gies also offers noncredit skills-based self-paced microcourses—some of which can be completed in a few hours—that provide students with foundational knowledge they can use in credit-bearing courses.

Even more dramatically, the Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State University in State College deploys a series of interrelated and stackable online graduate certificates to allow students to combine educational offerings into multiple degrees. In “The Future of Higher Ed Is Stacked,” Brian Cameron describes the flexibility of the online MBA, which offers 27 concentration areas, many of which correlate to graduate certificates and specialized master’s programs. The program design, he says, “enables interested students to earn more than one master’s degree in a time- and cost-efficient manner.”

Citizens of the Future

While some school leaders view technological advancements with trepidation—and some might prefer to keep certain emerging platforms off campus altogether—“banning new technology will fail,” insists Roos. “Therefore, we need to embrace it with open arms, as we have done with new technologies in the past, in ways that account for basic human nature.”

Essentially, universities must utilize and teach AI and other technology as a part of their mission to “develop citizens who are knowledgeable about the laws of nature and social systems,” Roos says. Tools such as AI do not only prepare students for careers, but also help them develop the “practical wisdom” that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

Sharon Shinn
Editor, AACSB Insights
The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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