Future-Proofing Higher Education

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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
By Alain Goudey
Photo by iStock/mesh cube
A manifesto for business schools to ensure the smart and deep integration of generative artificial intelligence into the curriculum.
  • Embracing artificial intelligence is no longer optional for higher education institutions—it is now a strategic imperative for schools to adopt AI in ways that are engaging, efficient, creative, human-centered, and inclusive.
  • Using AI, educators can shift away from “one-size-fits-all” learning models to deliver customized educational experiences that are accessible to a wide range of students across all languages and abilities.
  • As AI becomes integrated into our lives, we must be sure that our graduates appreciate the importance of its ethical implications, commit to reducing prejudice, and ensure the technology is used to benefit society.


Whether from a desire to experiment or out of necessity, business schools worldwide are increasingly integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI (GenAI) skills into their curricula. We can see examples of this integration at NEOMA Business School in France; the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School in the United Kingdom; and Harvard Business SchoolColumbia Business School, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in the United States. Business faculty are not only teaching students to use AI tools for idea generation, negotiation preparation, and strategic evaluation, but also emphasizing the irreplaceable value of human judgment.

If we are to leverage this rapidly evolving technology to prepare students for a digitized global job market, we must take a balanced approach. That is, we must harness the capabilities of the technology while emphasizing ethics and the preservation of essential human insights.

This reality calls for a broader movement in higher education—and at business schools, specifically—to embrace GenAI as a strategic imperative. Even as GenAI fundamentally alters educational experiences, we must take steps to ensure that its adoption also makes those experiences more engaging, efficient, creative, human-centered, and inclusive.

The Present State of AI

The integration of AI and GenAI into higher education is more than another stage of technological progress. Rather, it’s a transformative revolution in our methods of teaching and learning. With that in mind, let’s explore the many ways that that these technologies are currently being used in education:

To support adaptive learning. Powered by AI, adaptive learning represents a significant shift from traditional, one-size-fits-all education models. By personalizing the educational experience based on each student’s preferred pace, style of learning, and level of understanding, adaptive learning platforms have been remarkably successful in enhancing student engagement and achievement across various disciplines.

For example, at NEOMA Business School, we have used the McGraw Hill platform ALEKS to support specific technical courses for the last five years. The results, in terms of engagement, are good. Slow learners are achieving better, and fast learners are far more engaged with the content.

Although their use raises questions related to the accuracy of responses, chatbots still can provide students with initial answers to questions, whether they’re learning remotely or need support at night.

To be a catalyst for creativity and efficiency. Generative AI is redefining the creation and organization of educational content. The technology is swiftly becoming a valuable tool that educators can use to craft more engaging learning content. It provides instantaneous assistance to students, facilitating more dynamic learning environments.

A prominent example of this is the Khan Academy, which uses an AI-powered chatbot to provide students in remote learning conditions with immediate support. At NEOMA, we also are testing the use of in-house AI chatbots. So far, we have faced some questions related to the accuracy of responses, but we find that chatbots still can provide students with initial answers to questions, whether they are learning remotely or need support at night.

To empower the educational community. The integration of GenAI extends beyond teaching methodologies to encompass the entire educational ecosystem. Therefore, initiatives to demystify GenAI through specialized courses and hands-on projects are crucial in cultivating a culture of innovation and equipping individuals with the skills necessary for a future augmented by AI. When schools work to seamlessly integrate the technology into their ecosystems, they are helping future managers envision how the technology will support the evolution of their own professional lives.

With this in mind, NEOMA has successfully engaged more than 5,500 members of its community in the use of GenAI through its Generative AI Acculturation Initiative, chosen as one of AACSB’s Innovations That Inspire for 2024. For the initiative, NEOMA has created customized online courses that include a wide range of resources to help students, faculty members, and staff to become proficient in AI technology. With this effort, the school not only helps the members of its community improve their ability to use digital technology effectively, but also equips them to navigate and influence the future of employment.

To promote inclusivity and accessibility. Institutions are applying AI solutions to customize content to individual students and translate materials into different languages, thereby removing obstacles for foreign and differently abled students. AI can democratize education by providing individualized and accessible learning experiences to a wide range of students.

Envisioning the Future

We are still in the early stages of integrating AI into higher education. But we must prepare for its profound influence to intensify rapidly, as its use expands into many aspects of education:

Pedagogical innovation. In the future, GenAI-driven customization will likely become the standard in teaching and learning, rather than the exception. AI systems not only will support adaptive learning, but also will help us forecast learning outcomes, detect student difficulties in advance, and provide proactive solutions. Using AI, we will be able to access an unlimited source of exercises, business cases, and learning content in variations that have been fine-tuned based on core knowledge. And we will use AI technology to evaluate a wide range of data points, including metrics on student engagement and emotional responses. Based on this analysis, we will be able to design more customized educational experiences that cater to the specific requirements and goals of each learner.

Operational efficiency. Automated grading systems and AI-driven enrollment and scheduling platforms will lighten the administrative burden on professors and staff. Furthermore, predictive analytics might have a significant impact on the allocation of resources and rooms, administration of the campus, and provision of student services. Such analytics will ensure that educators base their choices on data and their institutions’ strategic objectives. In business, researchers estimate that GenAI will help companies reduce the time spent on tasks by up to 40 percent—business schools will be no different. 

Interactive educational resources. We now can envision a time when GenAI will instantaneously produce virtual reality scenarios that provide students with immersive experiences in their areas of study. Or GenAI might curate information, adapting dynamically to criteria determined by the professor to enhance a course’s learning objectives. We might see GenAI converge with the metaverse to create new kinds of learning experiences. The potential for improving the depth and efficacy of instructional content is limited only by the pace of development in AI technology.

We now can envision a time when GenAI will instantaneously produce virtual reality scenarios that provide students with immersive experiences in their areas of study.

Community engagement and AI literacy. To prepare graduates for an AI-driven world, future education models must include AI education as a core element. This will ensure that our graduates not only have expertise in their chosen professions, but also possess the skills to navigate within and make meaningful contributions to an AI-driven society.

These skills reach beyond technical capabilities to soft skills such as empathy, creative thinking, and critical thinking. Even further, our graduates will need to develop the foresight to redesign their professions continuously in response to prevalent trends.

Just as important, as AI and GenAI reshape nearly every job and become increasingly integrated into our lives, graduates must comprehend the societal ramifications of AI technology. They must appreciate the importance of ethics and morality, commit to reducing prejudice, and take every step possible to ensure these technologies are used to benefit society.

Scholarly research and innovation. Using AI, institutions can expedite the discovery process, promote the development of new ideas, and advance many disciplines. Researchers already are turning to GenAI to help them more quickly analyze the responses from qualitative surveys—albeit still with mixed results in these early stages.

Moreover, GenAI and AI are also prominent topics for research. For instance, I am working on research projects to better understand AI’s potential role in decision-making processes, as well as its impact on cognitive processes such as learning, writing, and creating. This new wave of transformation presents so many topics to cover that higher education institutions will need to dedicate centers, labs, and teams of researchers to explore all potential uses of the technology.

For their part, higher education institutions can foster academic-industry partnerships and provide students with chances to participate in advanced research and practical implementations of AI. By taking these steps to enhance the knowledge ecosystem, schools will accelerate our understanding of AI’s applications and implications.

Navigating Challenges, Addressing Ethics

The incorporation of AI into higher education presents challenges and raises ethical concerns. It is essential to navigate these intricacies to ensure that the use of AI promotes educational goals while also maintaining the utmost standards of integrity, inclusiveness, and ethical responsibility.

Promoting ethics and equity. As we adopt AI in education, we must address ethical concerns and take steps to avoid bias, protect privacy, and ensure fairness. Our institutions must prioritize the development of ethical frameworks that ensure AI technologies enhance educational equity and accessibility. There is a strong need to establish clear policies that authorize when, how, and for what students and faculty can use GenAI, as well as how they must correctly cite that use in their work.

By increasing collaboration and exchanging knowledge, the educational community can effectively manage the intricate process of integrating AI for good.

Adapting faculty roles and institutional structures. The integration of AI transforms the roles of faculty even further, as they move from being traditional lecturers to acting as facilitators of AI-augmented learning. They will need their institutions to provide significant professional development opportunities and to exhibit organizational flexibility when it comes to experimenting with new technological platforms, maintaining up-to-date curricula, and designing augmented learning experiences.

Aligning curricula with the evolving job market. Business schools must update their curricula to ensure graduates are prepared to succeed in the AI-driven workplace. Students must develop a range of soft skills and critical thinking capabilities that meet industry’s immediate needs. This is easy to say, but far harder to do, given that AI technology has been progressing nearly every week for the last 18 months. That pace of change is not likely to abate.

Welcome to a New Era

The integration of AI into higher education opens a new era of possibility, demanding collective action, visionary leadership, and a commitment to innovation. By embracing AI, institutions can transcend traditional limitations, offering educational content that is not only more personalized and inclusive, but also more aligned with the demands of a rapidly changing global job market.

The initiatives we are now seeing at pioneering schools highlight the concrete advantages of AI in improving learning results, operational effectiveness, and the entire educational experience. By increasing collaboration and exchanging knowledge, the educational community can effectively manage the intricate process of integrating AI for good.

Exploring these complex and urgently salient topics will be the focus of AACSB’s upcoming AI Conference: Preparing Business Leaders on May 22 and 23 in Santa Clara, California. We must take every opportunity to share our concerns, exchange best practices, and learn as much as we can about this rapidly emerging technology and its implications for our institutions, graduates, and corporate partners.

Using AI for the good of society is our common global challenge. By working together, we will shape a future in which we address AI’s limitations and ensure that its advantages are experienced by everyone.

Alain Goudey
Associate Dean for Digital and Full Professor (HDR) of Marketing, NEOMA Business School
The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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