Reports Discover How COVID-19 Changed Business School Curriculums

Business Schools Update MBA Curriculum After Covid-19. Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

We are far enough out of the COVID-19 pandemic to acknowledge that businesses worldwide had to pivot and shift their approach to remain viable, so it is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to accept the findings of some recent research that indicates the business school have also had to reshape their MBA curriculums.

According to a report by the MBA Roundtable, while initial changes focused simply on switching to virtual classes and hybrid learning, MBA programs gradually adjusted entire curriculums to reflect the outside world.

There’s a greater focus on supply-chain issues, human resources and leadership during a global emergency. According to the report, 54% of courses in leadership likely or often discuss COVID, 50% of those focusing on human resources discuss COVID and 49% of supply-chain courses include COVID. An additional 17% of MBA programs reported the creation of COVID-specific courses such as crisis management.

Another survey conducted at the ESCP Business School found that more than 70% of full-time faculty members felt that bringing pandemic-related topics into the MBA classroom is extremely important or very important. Fifty-five percent of the professors from the study say they would be preparing new material to introduce the pandemic.

“Of course MBA curriculums have changed since the pandemic: It couldn’t be otherwise,” says Enrique Dans, professor of innovation at IE University in Madrid.

For example, Dans says, there’s a wide array of content related to managing distributed companies, along with attracting and recruiting distributed talent and managing digital transformation. Digitally transformed companies were much more successful during the pandemic, so this is a big focus.

The pandemic also gave companies an opportunity to see how they could continue working in difficult circumstances while generating less carbon dioxide, so there are now additional courses related to decarbonisation and the climate emergency, Dans says.

Entrepreneurship classes have changed as well. Students now learn how to build companies in a post-pandemic environment, where investors no longer always require an international move for funding purposes.

“And in innovation, they discuss how to foster innovative environments in a distributed company or how to redesign processes to make them more prone to becoming distributed,” Dans says. “There’s a huge amount of innovation in the MBA curriculum every single year, but after the pandemic, we definitely saw an influx of new issues coming from the experience.”

At the University of Victoria in Canada, the MBA program is moving on from using the pandemic as the overarching context to using it as an example in a longer list of global, national and local contextual business considerations, says Cheryl Mitchell, academic director of the MBA in sustainable innovation at the university’s Gustavson School of Business.

During the pandemic, the focus was on the implication of the global pandemic for each of the course areas: Strategy, marketing, sustainability, operations, supply chain, the people and the future of work.

“Now, we are focusing on the content from multiple contexts: Climate change, global pandemic, inflation, global strife and displacement,” Mitchell says.

What this means is that whilst the pandemic was tough to weather in all respects, personal, business and otherwise, it has allowed business schools to ensure their MBA curriculum is more robust than ever before, especially in the context of similar societal challenges.

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