MBA Programs Integrate Technology Into Teaching

With NYU Stern School of Business‘s plans to incorporate the Apple iPad in the classroom, and last year’s less-successful attempt to put the Kindle to work for MBA students at Darden School of Business, B-schools are coming to terms with their increasingly tech-savvy students, says a recent piece in The Economist.

In the Kindle experiment, students complained that switching between text, graphs and charts took much longer than on paper-based alternatives and made it hard to keep up with fast-paced class discussions. Will the iPad have greater success? We”ll soon find out.

Michael Koenig, director of MBA operations at Darden, says the beauty of MBA courses is that students can try out new technologies without fear of a serious backlash if the trials don’t pay off. “The threat level is just a grade, not a career,” he explains.

Schools are also using technology that helps members of study teams to keep in touch with one another, The Economist has found. Darden, which is among the vanguard of schools incorporating new technologies in their programs, is using wide-screen TVs and software in classrooms that allow students who are off campus to share data and opinions with those who are on it.

“Our job is to stretch skills as well as minds,” says Koenig, who points out that today’s executives often need to influence virtual teams they rarely meet face-to-face.

The Economist also highlights high-tech gizmos now in use at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, where a Cisco “Telepresence” system in one of its lecture theaters has giant plasma screens and cameras that display life-size video images of people in remote locations to an entire class.

The goal is to include participants abroad in class discussions, but the school acknowledges that some fine-tuning is needed before the technology can seamlessly accommodate large numbers of folk joining all at once.

Meanwhile, students at the University of Southern California’s Marshall Business School have launched a thriving retail corridor on their Second Life campus. In the online virtual world Second Life, you can chat with other avatars over coffee, shop in virtual malls, snowboard on virtual mountains, scuba dive in the virtual ocean, and the list goes on.

INSEAD has turned to Second Life to help bring MBA students together through its own cyber-campus. And the usage goes beyond dabbling…The Economist reports that INSEAD has begun to integrate Second Life into a few of its courses. One elective, focusing on B2B marketing, requires students to roam around the virtual world assessing how firms are using its capabilities to market their wares.

Some professors express concern about whether these new technologies in the classroom will enhance the MBA experience or diminish it by detracting from the quality of classroom discussions.

That has not deterred schools from experimenting, The Economist concludes, as innovations designed to help students manage information more efficiently, interact with their peers wherever they are and imbibe important business lessons via virtual simulations continue to be tested.

* Attention Bay Area professionals:  Future Women Leaders is hosting an MBA Admissions Panel for Working Profesisonals on November 16 at 6:30 PM at Citizen Space in San Francisco.  Learn more.

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