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MBA Classrooms Move Towards Digital Materials

Asithandile Nkatha has just completed her first year as an MBA student at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management. But she hasn’t even purchased at textbook.

Rather than having to buy expensive textbooks, Nkatha says students at Guanghua are given a bounded packet of materials with case studies specific to China.

Jonathan Moules, a Business Education Correspondent at Financial Times, recently wrote an article discussing how many MBA classrooms are finding alternative ways to circulate classroom materials. In some Guanghua classes, course materials are even distributed using WeChat, a group messaging system popular in China.

“Circulating materials in this way not only ensures that everyone gets a copy easily, but also encourages online discussions about the content to occur before and after classroom tutorials,” Moules says.

Zhao Longkai is the executive director of the MBA program at Peking University. Zhao says the shift to digital materials is necessary given the constantly changing landscape of business.

“Many cases cover unique companies that are still developing,” Zhao tells Financial Times. “The personalized teaching material is a way for professors to disseminate the research they are required to undertake as part of their job. Each time a case is taught there might be some updates. It is easier for professors to incorporate their current research into the teaching.”

Although textbooks haven’t been completely ruled out, Zhao says new technologies are pushing professors to consider “alternative ways” to circulate classroom content. Guanghua School of Management has even developed a smartphone app to distribute course materials to students.

Andrew Main Wilson is the chief executive at the Association of MBAs (AMBA). Wilson tells Financial Times that much of the teaching in MBA courses is done through classroom discussions. “The main benefit of an MBA is to sharpen your critical thinking and analysis, and you are not going to get that from a textbook,” he says.

The shift towards digital materials is becoming the norm among many MBA institutions. According to Financial Times, HEC Paris became one of the first institutions to distribute completely digital reading material and video content using Apple’s iTunes U educational network.

Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management has also digitalized texts on the master’s courses using digital case studies and articles.

Many students say they prefer digitalized course materials. According to a survey by VitalSource Technologies — an educational technology company — 78% of students frequently read course materials with a device.

Nkatha seems to agree that students really do prefer digital.

“Some of the textbooks I had to get for my undergraduate degree were really expensive,” she says. “Students would be happy if everything went online.”

Sources: Financial Times, PR Newswire