BEI Survey: Are You Finding Ways to Innovate? Opportunities and Constraints

In this third installment of our Business Education Insider part-time MBA survey series, we discuss the various types of innovations considered in part-time MBA programs. In our previous installments, we established that although a large majority of MBA policymakers (more than 80 percent) believe innovation is critical to maintaining quality programs, several barriers exist that contribute to a very slow pace of change.

So the question becomes, when innovation does occur, which types of innovations are being considered and implemented?

We asked part-time MBA policymakers to indicate whether or not their schools are considering 11 different innovation tactics. These tactics were derived by reviewing both scholarly literature and popular press pertaining to innovations in graduate management education. We also asked respondents to indicate the extent to which each tactic was “feasible” to implement. The figure below shows the results of these questions.

Constraints Figure 1A few overall patterns stand out:

  • Except for innovations around service learning and one-year programs, each tactic was considered by at least half of the respondents.
  • There is substantial variability in both the extent to which each tactic was considered as well as its feasibility.
  • Across all 11 tactics the degree of feasibility does not always align with how much a given tactic was considered.

More specific patterns are also apparent. For example, using orientation programs (“boot camps”) as an innovation tactic was the most considered and, as one might expect, also seen as the most feasible to implement in part-time MBA programs. At the other end of the spectrum, service-learning innovations and one-year programs were not often considered—perhaps driven by low views of feasibility. It should be noted that for business schools that want to add a substantial service-learning component to their programs, there exists substantial literature to guide the numerous classroom and programmatic choices that must be made.

Finally, some results depict a potential disconnect between consideration and feasibility, as well as with broader trends in graduate management education as a whole. For instance, innovating by using team-teaching and integrating across units were considered by two-thirds of respondents, yet these tactics were also the least endorsed as feasible tactics to implement. Team-teaching is often a common recommendation made in order to improve integration of academic disciplines. However, the feasibility ratings here confirm what most probably suspect. In theory, team-teaching is a logical innovation to promote true integration, but in practice its success lies solely in the capability of faculty to abandon their academic silos and work collaboratively.

Similarly, the fact that one-year programs were viewed as low in feasibility and were the least considered is also interesting when one contrasts this to the general trend toward shorter, more abbreviated programs in the graduate business education field such as Masters in Management programs.

What Innovations Are Taking Place?

Beyond asking respondents whether they considered different innovation tactics and their feasibility, we also asked about what kinds of innovations were currently underway at their own institutions. Here’s a sampling of what we found from respondents who provided permission to share their innovations:

  • Co-curricular: Seattle University Albers School is engaged in a mentorship program with more than 100 local executives, who serve as mentors to part-time MBA students, with multiple touch-points during the year.

It’s clear that many programs are continuing to experiment with various forms of innovation. Yet, while 80 percent of our sample says innovation is critical, only 51 percent provided examples of such innovation. Unfortunately, it’s now become quite clear that “business as usual” is not a sustainable path for business education. Schools of business must find ways to confront age-old constraints with a new sense of urgency. The sky isn’t falling yet, but clouds are certainly gathering.

Click below to read this survey report as a PDF.

Business Education Insider Survey 3 – Opportunities and Constraints

By Erich C. Dierdorff and Robert S. Rubin, DePaul University Driehaus College of Business

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