Big changes are in store for digital MBA education
The shift is only just beginning, says Penny Law, dean of Regenesys Business School
FM: What is Regenesys doing to help students address the introduction of new technology?
Law: We have recruited several international doctoral academics to bolster our team in SA. Many specialise in data science, artificial intelligence, coding, machine learning, cybersecurity, blockchain and design thinking. They are helping our MBA students to develop the capabilities required for digital transformation, innovation and global competitiveness in the new digital age.
FM: Has the move to online teaching changed the MBA experience irrevocably?
Law: Covid has made students, faculty and employers realise the benefits of operating in a digital space. The traditional MBA programme will evolve to include more digital learning elements, such as gamification, digital assessments and virtual syndicate groups, and even more interactive and dynamic course materials. Further emphasis will be placed on creating a “flipped” classroom experience, where the focus of synchronous contact or online interaction will be on dialogue, dynamic interaction and application, rather than on inputs. A stronger partnership with industry will be established in curriculum development and programme delivery.
FM: Do you expect to see more SA marketing by overseas MBA providers?
Law: The MBA space is highly competitive. Many top overseas providers have established their presence across the globe, and regard Africa – and specifically SA – as a potential market. Regulation has made it harder for them to deliver contact-learning MBA programmes in SA. However, with the growing acceptance of online education, more South Africans are open to studying online and will want to graduate from a prestigious international business school. Cost could be the key deterrent, so the provision of a cost-effective MBA online programme would attract a growing local market. Studying offshore is appealing to many South Africans.
FM: Can a virtual, online MBA international study tour ever replace the real thing?
Law: We are delivering a virtual international study tour successfully for our executive education clients. However, I believe a virtual MBA cannot replace the experience of an in situ tour. A key part of learning is to be exposed to a multisensory explosion of new sounds, tastes, smells and textures that can only be experienced in person.A study tour is more than just being exposed to the insights and experiences from top speakers. It involves being immersed in the country’s culture. Using public transport, standing in long queues, negotiating at local markets and eating at local restaurants are examples of how one can better understand the mindset of a country – gleaning insights into how business is done, what the entrepreneurial spirit of the country is, how the economy functions, which power relationships between groups of people exist, and how efficient the state and local government are.
FM: Market research for the FM shows many employers are critical of MBA graduates’ ethical behaviour and people skills. Your thoughts?
Law: There is a perception that MBA graduates are arrogant and might inadvertently contribute to creating conflict in an organisation when they share their knowledge. Regenesys has introduced a module called spiritual and emotional intelligence to help students [to] establish more effective relationships with their colleagues.
FM: Employers also say MBA programmes are too tailored for the private sector and need to include more content on the public sector.
Law: Even though the public sector attempts to introduce models, trends and practices from the business sector to increase efficiency and effectiveness, their contexts are different. Many of the business sector models need to be customised for the public sector. This is why many of our public sector students prefer to enrol for our master’s in public management, as this programme develops competencies within government’s legislative framework and mandate while considering public sector challenges and needs.
FM: Research also shows graduates believe MBA programmes should include more African case studies.
Law: The perception that everything from the West is better has shifted to the realisation that we have developed highly successful homegrown solutions not only in SA but on the African continent. Graduates are not only interested in African case studies but in case studies based on contexts similar to ours – where developing countries have overcome challenges in innovative ways.
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