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The future of business education is ‘blended learning’, experts agree

The future of business education is blended learning, a panel of expert thinkers agreed yesterday.

The call came from Santiago Iñiguez, the dean of Madrid’s IE Business School, who said: “It’s high-quality online learning combined with face-to-face sessions. Technology won’t replace professors, but we need to bring the professors into this new world.” He added that the “infinite” amount of knowledge available online needed “editors” to make sense of it.

“Blended education is the future,” he said.

Iñiguez was part a panel that debated the future of business education at the Thinkers50 event in London yesterday. Thinkers50 is a ranking of the world’s best management thinkers.

Also on the panel were Clark Callahan, executive director of executive education at Tuck Business School, Clay Christensen, professor at Harvard Business School, Rita McGrath, professor at Columbia Business School, Roger Martin, former dean of Rotman School of Management, and Noel Tagoe, executive director of CIMA Education.

McGrath predicted an increase in lifelong learning and executive education, perhaps in place of the more traditional MBAs. “You don’t stop being educated at 26,” she said. “I think we’ll see more lifelong learning – education that comes with the life of being a leader. There will be a real appetite for executive education.”

Softer skills

The panel also agreed business education would have no choice but to become more integrated in order to survive, and that the softer, behavioural skills would become more important. “We should revisit the purpose of changing behaviour rather than just transmitting knowledge,” said Iñiguez.

Martin blasted many business schools for focusing on analysis rather than teaching students how to “create something new” and predicted half of US business schools would close within five to seven years.

“Business education has traditionally been focused on the stuff that’s easiest to teach and can be reduced to formula,” said Martin. “That’s why they love teaching finance. Anything else is trickier.”

Christensen said the “disruption” caused by the democratisation of learning via online courses could be an opportunity for traditional business schools to up their game. “They should be looking at the opportunity to teach finance and strategy together, not in silos,” he said. “The advent of online learning and companies doing management training in-house rather than outsourcing makes disruption a big issue.”