Online Courses Challenging Traditional Business Ed, MBA Models

The traditional MBA may be on its way out. Because of cheaper online alternatives, business schools could end up completely changing their courses — or even closing — writes Oliver Stanley from Bloomberg.

A professor from Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto has expressed his view that as many as half of all business schools in the US will be forced to shut their doors due to the offerings that can be found online.

"Half of U.S. business schools will be out of business in five to seven years because of online disruption," Roger Martin, a professor and former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, told a forum on education in London hosted by management ranking organization Thinkers 50.

Massive online open courses (MOOC's) have increased the amount of options available for many students and because of the advantages of online education — low cost, more accessible and flexible — the rise in popularity is resulting in a decreasing interest in a traditional business education.

Companies are in on the revolution, too, since they can create an online education environment of their own at a very cheap costs, meaning that they do not need to outsource the education of their employees to business schools.

"The advent of online learning, and the propensity of more and more companies to bring teaching of management in-house, versus outsourcing it, makes disruption a very big deal for business schools," said Clayton Christensen, a management professor at Harvard Business School.

Such changes for business schools are also being affected in Europe as the merger of Reims Management School and Rouen Business School demonstrates. This is a direct result of the need to pool together resources so that the operations of both schools can stay afloat.

One of the challenges that business schools have is to persuade employers that what they teach their students actually makes a difference and will improve the quality of the work that is being done.

Business schools also face a challenge convincing employers that what they teach adds value, Martin said. The schools tend to teach commoditized skills, such as finance, when they should focus on teaching creative problem-solving, he said.

In the future what might happen is that businesses will cherry pick the course needed for what their business does as opposed to getting their employees to go through a whole curriculum. It is therefore up to the business schools to operate in a flexible way where they are able to meet the demands of what the businesses require — something the online medium does well and cheaply.

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