Face-to-face learning still best for MBAs

Nick Leeder, Managing Director of Google France and Andrew Main Wilson, AMBA’s Chief Executive
Nick Leeder, Managing Director of Google France and Andrew Main Wilson, AMBA’s Chief Executive

Face-to-face remains the strongest part of the MBA learning experience, despite the rapid proliferation of online learning technologies and platforms, according to  Association of MBA’s (AMBA) Chief Executive Andrew Main Wilson.

Speaking at AMBA’s recent International Conference for Deans and Directors, Mr Main Wilson echoed comments by guest speaker and Google France Managing Director Nick Leeder.

“Despite the rise of online learning, the face-to-face element still remains the strongest part of the MBA learning experience,” Mr Main Wilson said.

His comments came after Mr Leeder revealed that even Google prefers face-to-face interaction, using video-conferencing and other technology as a communication tool only when physical contact is not possible.

“Google’s corporate culture relies on the concept ‘Food, fun, data’, and we encourage the idea of our employees eating together and enjoying one another’s company, as that allows ideas to spread easily”, said Leeder, urging business schools to create the right conditions for stimulating creativity and innovation.

The AMBA International Conference for Deans and Directors, which took place last week in Paris (from 28 to 30 April), had its highest ever attendance with over 250 delegates from 127 business schools in 47 countries. Under the banner ‘MBA Education – Views from the Top’, the conference discussed the challenges and opportunities business school Deans and MBA Directors face in MBA Education in 2014/2015 and onwards.

Mr Main Wilson pointed out that in just one generation (20 years), one million MBAs will graduate from 215 AMBA-accredited schools, highlighting that the MBA is a multi-billion dollar industry, equalling $25 billion revenue over 20 years.

“Those 1 million MBAs form a huge group of global leaders who will play an enormous role in shaping the future of business, politics, environment and even the future of many countries,” he said.

The MBA business education trends for 2015 and onwards will revolve around:

  1. Global partnerships between schools
  2. Further differentiation in the design of the MBA programmes
  3. The rise of MBA programmes in emerging and developing countries (“Learn business where business is being done”)
  4. The rise of online learning
  5. Further integration of entrepreneurship and sustainability elements into the MBA curriculum
  6. Experiential learning
  7. Design thinking.

The rise of online and ‘lifestyle’ learning is rapidly becoming a must-have option for business schools and the next generation of MBAs, who will be internationally mobile, will want to experience business on a global scale, with access to the best lecturers and opportunities. The business school of the future will be highly impacted by online attitudes of a new generation of learners and innovation.

The main challenges business schools face include the rising cost of an MBA, the need to appeal to the younger generations and adapt to the ‘Millennial’ mind set, and the rise of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

However, the financial reservations are counterbalanced by the fact that the large majority of prospective MBA students perceive gaining an MBA degree as the best route to increase their job opportunities and salary potential.

Although the number of prospective MBA students considering online MBA programmes are still low (US: 22% | Canada: 19% | W. Europe: 6% | APAC: 3%), and for 90% of prospective students, MOOCs are mainly perceived as a way to explore a personal interest, there is no doubt that the rise of online education will shape the business school environment in the upcoming years.

MBA employers and executive search recruiters revealed the attributes they are looking for in future MBA graduates, and these included optimism, resilience, embracing ambiguity, ‘bosslessness’ (ability to work with minimal contact with manager and as part of a wider team) and international experience (ideally in at least two cultures in addition to the home culture).

MBA employers are also looking for MBA students who are gaining experience in addition to their degrees, such as being involved in charity and community work, being active in the student community, setting up their own business ventures and participating in competitions and challenges, thus developing skills critical for their future success.

About the Association of MBAs (AMBA):

AMBA is the international impartial authority on postgraduate business education and the only global MBA-specific Accrediting body. Established in 1967, it sets the global standard for accrediting MBA, DBA and MBM programmes. The Association currently accredits programmes in 215 schools in 70 countries worldwide. AMBA is also a professional membership association with thousands of MBA members in over 100 countries, connecting MBA students and graduates, accredited business schools and MBA employers worldwide.

Ben Ready
Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (rgcmm.com.au).