B-Schools (Try To) Predict What 2021 Will Look Like

The failure rate of AI and analytics projects continues to be sky-high. Will that change in 2021?

“AI and analytics hold tremendous promise,” writes Eric Anderson, professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and director of the Kellogg-McCormick MBAi program, “but most firms continue to struggle with delivering and scaling successful business outcomes. The failure rate of AI and analytics projects was 85% in 2017, according to Gartner, and it continues to be very high despite many advances in AI since then.

“The failure is typically not due to the science. Rather, it is the inability of businesses need to adapt. Organizations need new decision-making processes, new culture and new organizational structures. And, making these changes requires leaders with expertise in both business and technology.

“As we look at the year ahead, there will continue to be a persistent and growing market demand for technically-savvy, skilled business leaders. We will also continue to see the growth of STEM-designated programs and curriculums. To meet these business challenges, Kellogg’s new joint-MBAi degree with Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering will develop future leaders who can drive successful business outcomes through adoption of AI-driven technology and innovation. The program is designed to equip students to become leaders and innovators who have the proficiency to deploy complex technologies — and the business acumen to drive organizations forward. MBAi graduates will succeed not only within preexisting roles we know today, but within emerging roles which will be inevitably necessary for the success of businesses tomorrow. Our first class will start in the fall of 2021.”


Doreen Amorosa

“The economic fallout caused by the pandemic fundamentally changed the 2020 MBA Employment landscape in a number of ways,” writes Doreen Amorosa, associate dean of McDonough Career Services at Georgetown University.

“First, companies had to reassess demand for hiring, and the factors for this reassessment varied industry by industry. For those industries which had already achieved their MBA hiring goals in the fall, the calculus was ‘will we need all of the MBA hires that we have made, and if so, when should we onboard them?’ For those employers hiring in the ‘Just-in-time’ market in the spring, the question was ‘how much risk are we willing to take with MBA (industry or function) switchers, or should we only hire MBA enhancers?’

“Second, employers and MBA Career Centers needed to quickly pivot to recruiting completely in a virtual environment. While virtual recruiting had been utilized by most companies as part of their operating models for years, it had never been stress tested like it was in 2020.

“Third, heightened racial injustice and inequality were important catalysts for change with distinct implications for hiring. Many employers reevaluated diversity & inclusion success introspectively, and as a result committed to a stronger focus on their diversity hiring and promotion goals going forward.

“These 2020 challenges, approaches and solutions have already started to inform the MBA recruiting landscape for 2021. While employers will continue to see the value that MBA hires bring to their leadership bench, they will be more strategic about how, where and when they build their MBA talent pipelines.

“Virtual recruiting is here to stay; perhaps not at 100%, but certainly as a cost effective alternative to reach a broader audience and more diverse candidates. For instance, traditional networking events and employer presentations will be a mix of virtual and in person, and the well-known concept of ‘Core Schools’ will be expanded to include virtual ‘Core School’ relationships.

“Industries still struggling economically such as Hospitality and Transportation will continue be somewhat ‘risk averse’ about hiring MBA switchers. But, as we move away from the darkness that descended in 2020 into the light of 2021, I am cautiously optimistic that MBA hiring demand will improve across the board as the economy rebounds. This will begin to evolve in the spring, when MBA candidates about to graduate will be especially appealing for experienced hire recruiters looking to fill just-in-time roles. And the internship hiring season will be extended well into the spring, when employers will increasingly need MBA talent to support business growth next summer.

“All in all, I believe better days are ahead in 2021.”


Mike Barger

Mike Barger, executive director of digital education and Ross Online at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, offered a detailed assessment of the landscape as 2020 gives way to 2021.

“The year 2020 has certainly been pivotal for advances in digital education around the world,” Barger writes. “While the entire higher education community considers the impact of COVID-19 on its future, the pandemic has put a spotlight on learning technology and the benefits — and challenges — of new content delivery methods. Looking forward to the year ahead, here are some predictions for the future of learning technology and its path toward becoming a fully integrated component of the higher ed ecosystem.

Program Administrator Perspective

“The situation we’ve faced during this past year has compelled program administrators to assess the lasting impact of the pandemic on higher education as well as the implications of lessons learned from our experiences with fully remote teaching and hybrid instruction. Will there come a time when all students are expected to be back in the classroom? While it is unclear when this will become possible, the logical answer is yes. Does this mean remote class participation is temporary and will be slowly phased out in 2021? I don’t believe so. In the year ahead, I predict that academic institutions will determine that elements of remote participation are desirable going forward — perhaps even necessary, not only for future crisis readiness, but also because we have learned that expert-facilitated synchronous discussion can be remarkably effective even in hybrid and fully virtual classrooms. We have also learned that remote participation mechanisms have made it easier for outside experts and guests to virtually join students and faculty to share experiences and guide discussion, which has resulted in richer, more engaging learning. In the year ahead, I believe discussions will not focus on reducing digital technology in the f classroom, but rather, on how much more should be invested should be invested in it.

“At Michigan Ross, our experiences with remote instruction this past year already have program administrators testing out how digital technology can address questions related to access, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Student Perspective

“During this past year, we have seen our students be remarkably resilient as faculty have developed their own capabilities and responses to the challenges of administering virtual classes. Going forward, student expectations for improvements in course quality will increase significantly. During the year ahead, I expect student feedback on their experiences will rise in both volume and specificity, creating a remarkable co-creation opportunity where students and faculty work together to iterate, innovate, and improve the academic experience for all stakeholders.

“A second prediction for the year ahead will take place in the technologies integrated into student coursework. Over this past year, faculty and program leadership have expanded and improved the use of traditional software tools (e.g., LMS functions and features) in their offerings to students. In the year ahead, students will demand greater levels of integration of commercial communication (e.g., Slack) and social media (e.g., TikTok) tools into their coursework. Once again, this tension will create a great environment for co-creation.

“One interesting outcome of the pandemic is more faculty are interested in creating courses that are largely or completely available online. Many of these courses are being created for distribution on third party platforms such as Coursera and FutureLearn, while others are being created for delivery in a growing number of online degree programs, such as our Michigan Ross Online MBA Program. Irrespective of delivery channel, students are following these developments and are asking reasonable questions about greater freedom to access and incorporate them into their degree programs. In the year ahead, we will see the beginnings of significant changes in the way students are able to personalize their learning experiences.

Faculty Perspective

“A silver lining of the pandemic has been increased faculty awareness of and curiosity about learning technologies. Pre-COVID, few would have predicted the widespread acceptance of Zoom as a core EdTech solution for virtual, synchronous instruction. Now, it has become one of the most widely known tools in the space. Ahead, we should see several additional developments from a faculty perspective.

“The emergency teaching scenario that faculty faced last March led to the introduction of many new approaches to teaching. Over the summer and into the fall semester, faculty made tangible progress with the integration of technology into their pedagogy, but many of these solutions were limited to improving the effectiveness of virtual synchronous sessions. Next year, I predict faculty will recognize the need for an increased level of digital competence. This will lead to the discovery and integration of new tools and techniques for improving both synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences for students.

“As faculty gain confidence with improved methods of technology-enabled content delivery in the year ahead, they will also begin to imagine new ways of teaching their courses. Lectures will be translated into multimedia collections of videos and other activities to make them more interesting and impactful. Readings will be accompanied by video supplements and other activities that help bring key concepts to life. Gamification and simulation will increase as new, less expensive, easier to deploy tools are developed and faculty discover their value.

“The most radical and important change I predict in the year ahead is that faculty will truly be able to begin the process of “flipping their classrooms”. We now have a favorable set of conditions (as far as pedagogical innovation is concerned) to redesign courses in ways that leverage advances in technology and the increased general acceptance of their integration with coursework. In 2021, I believe that we will see faculty taking advantage of the opportunity to shift the delivery of foundational content and core concepts into technology-enabled, asynchronous pre-class work and then redesigning classroom experiences to allow greater levels of immersive, action-oriented, deliberate practice.

“2020 has, indeed, been a challenging year on many levels. From a learning technology perspective, however, it may become known one day and the year of the great transition. Necessity is quite often the mother of invention. As the higher education community marches into 2021, there will continue to be a surplus of necessity. I predict that there will be an equivalent amount of invention.”

Next week: Business school deans and other leaders offer their 2021 resolutions.

The Best of 2020 at Poets&Quants










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