Six top business schools have joined forces to launch a new digital learning platform that will offer more flexible and bespoke courses. The partnership will also enable them to offer lectures delivered by holograms.
The Future of Management Education Alliance comprises Imperial College Business School (UK), ESMT Berlin (Germany), BI Norwegian Business School (Norway), Singapore Management University (SMU) Lee Kong Chian School of Business (LKCSB), EDHEC Business School (France), and Ivey Business School (Canada). The group wants to make classroom teaching more engaging through the use of innovative technology and to enable partner schools to enhance the student experience through face-to-face, experiential, and online learning methods.
Hologram technology enters the MBA clasroom
The primary focus for the alliance is a digital learning platform. But the members will also be offered the hologram system, which Imperial is adopting for its MBA classes, aimed at cutting the cost of sharing their academics while hopefully improving on videoconferencing. The use of the hologram technology also reflects how business schools are trying to add a wow factor to fend off the challenge not only from rivals but also from online learning courses that offer cut-price tuition. “The need for more flexible learning models to face new demands from individuals and from businesses, and to be attractive in a more competitive global executive market, requires business schools to think differently,” Inge Jan Henjesand, president of BI Norwegian Business School, said in a statement.
“This gives our teaching staff a sense of presence when talking with students,” David Lefevre, director of Imperial’s Edtech Lab, told the Financial Times. “Otherwise we might as well run a lecture on [videoconferencing service] Zoom.” The holographic professor would be able to take questions in real time, he added. Imperial has created an educational technology venture, Insendi, to help digitise existing degree programmes offered by the other alliance members – from flagship degrees such as the MBA to executive-level short programmes and MOOCs.
Although Imperial’s engineering teams will develop much of Insendi’s technology in-house, the hologram system was bought from Toronto-based Arht Media. Its technology is significantly cheaper than alternatives on the market because its software enables holograms to be created using a standard broadband internet connection and conventional cameras and projection equipment. Arht wants to create a global network of university campuses able to host presentations via holograms, according to its chief executive, Larry O’Reilly. “The schools suddenly become more open to the world and they are helping us to grow our network,” he told the Financial Times.
At the forefront of innovation
A key aim of the partnership is to challenge the perception of digital education as a sub-standard alternative to classroom-based programmes. Emmanuel Métais, EDHEC’s dean, said: “This initiative reflects our commitment to be at the forefront of innovation, not only to provide students with a better learning experience but to make them succeed in a fast-changing world. At EDHEC, we believe that excellence and innovation are the two pillars on which our people build their own personalities and careers to make an impact on the world.”
Flexibility is another aim of the alliance. “This innovative model turns the traditional format around by providing students with greater choice of what to learn, how to learn, and where to learn,” Gerard George, dean of LKCSB, said in a statement.
The Future of Management Education Alliance will also provide access to expert digital training, consultancy and programme development support to ensure greater ownership over its own online offerings, according to Francisco Veloso, dean of Imperial College Business School. “New pedagogical models and greater governance are needed to ensure business schools can step up to the challenge,” Veloso said. “Demand is rapidly growing, from business school applicants and employers alike, for programmes which provide the greater flexibility and access that today’s modern technologies can afford.”