Innovation: What Many Schools Miss In Digital Learning: Strategy

Sanjay Sarma, dean of the Asia School of Business

Sanjay Sarma, who became dean of the Asian School of Business in March, may well know more about digital learning than any other academic on the planet. He spent nine highly formative years from 2013 to 2022 leading MIT’s work on digital learning. It was Sarma who, in 2015, conceived of and then led the launch of the MicroMasters, a new credential for working professionals to pursue master’s-level courses online. Nearly 2 million students have since enrolled in one of the five MicroMasters offered by MIT, and 5,000 learners have earned MIT MicroMasters. Sarma also began MIT Bootcamps, which offers blended learning experiences for entrepreneurs, and which has reached over 2,400 learners.

“Digital is a certainty,” believes Sarma. “We should not see it as a replacement for in-person. We have to see it as an enhancement to in-person and for those who don’t have access to skills that are fast moving.”

While many business school deans may think this obvious, Sarma sees a serious challenge in how schools are moving forward with online learning. “What is missing is the strategy. Just throwing your hat into the ring doesn’t solve the problem. If you don’t have a strategy you are just another player among many.”

He says there are three elements to a coherent online strategy:

“First, focus on pedagogy. Focus on what you can do in the classroom, and digital will find its way in there. Do it because you want to focus on pedagogy. Let me give you an example. MIT is famous for modern manufacturing. In a lot of classes around the world, manufacturing is taught from a textbook but you never actually work with a 3D printer.

“The action has to be in the classroom. There is so much research on this. You need to push students into the unknown. Push them into it and then coach them out.

“Two, If you do digital do it right. Digital learning needs to be in ten-minute chunks with formative assessments in between, not 90-minute lectures on Zoom. There is a formula. The research shows that students form memories because after 10 or 15 minutes, you stop absorbing. You get familiar with the material but don’t absorb it.

“At the end of the 10 minutes, what you should do is ask students questions about the things they have just learned. Not assessment. Students have to go back to the material. We know for a fact that anything I tell you you are going to forget tomorrow. The brain makes you forget things. If you remind someone what they just learned, they will remember it. A 90-minute lecture should now be two 20-minute lectures. This is super efficient and then in between you have these formative assessments.

“And three, think of the folks who cannot come to college because they are working parents because they are working period. Maybe they are far away. Maybe you are taking leave because you had a child. Make it available to them. It is your duty. It’s not just about making money.”

Executive Summary:

Is the MBA a luxury good that is being diminished by the proliferation of online versions? That’s what former Graduate Management Admission Council CEO Sangeet Chowfla believes in his essay Why Students Go To Business School & How They Make Their Choices.

What really matters in recruiting students: location & alumni successChowfla Explains why business school messaging has to change from news releases about professors who win an award to alumni success stories. “Simply put, it’s about benefits to our students, not our own achievements,” writes Chowfla in his essay A Decade Of Graduate Management Education: ‘I Love You, Your Perfect, Now Change’

Diversity & The Future Of Business EducationUC-San Diego Dean Lisa Ordonez on one of the big topics of the day. 

On The Enduring Value Of The MBA: It may be a mature product in higher education but the value of the degree remains unchallenged. Rochester Simon Dean Sevin Yeltekin On The MBA’s Value And More

B-School Dean Predictions For This Uncertain Year: We asked prominent deans from all over the world to gaze into their crystal balls and tell us what they expect to happen in 2023 in business education. The Crystal Ball: Business School Leaders Offer Predictions–And More Than A dAsh Of Hope–for 2023

With COVID More Or Less Over, A New Normal Takes Place On Campus. ‘A Tremendous Opportunity To Make Positive Change:’ Business School Deans Share Their 2023 Resolutions

On The Move:

Francisco Veloso, dean of Imperial College Business in London, will become dean of INSEAD on Sept. 1.

Ash Soni, interim dean at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, named to a two-year deanship after a full search.

Thomas J. Steenburgh, a senior associate dean at UVA’s Darden School of Business who leads Darden’s residential MBA program, will be the next dean of Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management starting this June.

Michael Mazzeo, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management for nearly a quarter of a century at Kellogg, is taking over the deanship of Washington University’s Olin Business School on Jan. 1 of 2024.

Vijay Khatri, an executive associate dean at Indiana’s Kelley School of Business, has won a four-person shootout for the deanship the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business in Boulder effective July.

Balaji Rajagopalan, dean of the College of Business at Northern Illinois University since 2016, is moving over to the deanship at the Trulaske College of Business at the University of Missouri.

Wen Mao, a longtime professor of economics and vice dean at Villanova School of Business, will become dean of the school on Aug. 1.

David De Cremer, provost chair and professor at National University of Singapore, will become the new dean of Northeastern University’s  D’Amore-McKim School of Business on July 1.

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