Technology

September/October 2014

How Will MOOCs Change Business Schools?

What are the implications of MOOCs on tenured business faculty? The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia explores this and other questions in its recently released "Will Video Kill the Classroom Star? The Threat and Opportunity of MOOCs for Full-Time MBA Programs."

The report is authored by Christian Terwiesch, a professor of operations and information management and co-director of the university's Mack Institute for Innovation Management, and Kurt Ulrich, the school's vice dean of innovation. The document first compares the current cost of delivering a traditional course to the cost of delivering a MOOC. Wharton estimates that schools spend approximately US$1,475 per student to deliver a traditional course in a full-time MBA program, assuming that course is taught by a tenured or tenure-track professor making $200,000 per year plus benefits. Wharton estimates that a MOOC costs about $70,000 to develop, of which $50,000 pays for faculty time and $20,000 for video production. Over four offerings of Wharton's Introduction to Operations Management MOOC, 12,500 of 250,000 enrolled students completed the course. The cost of course delivery per student who completed it was $11.20.

But the report's authors also find that the real issue regarding MOOCs isn't completion rates or production costs. Rather it's the technologies MOOCs employ—such as short videos, customized delivery, asynchronous interactions, adaptive assessment, and self-paced learning—a suite of methods that the authors call SuperText. "It is SuperText that poses the threat and the opportunity" to traditional business education, the authors write. "The MOOC, we argue, is a Trojan horse: While public attention is focused on the massive and open characteristics of the courses, the SuperText technology [has] proved highly effective as a learning technology."

The authors outline three paths that business schools might follow to use SuperText technologies effectively to leverage lower costs, while maintaining educational quality. First, schools could use SuperText to target nondegree students or support executive education. Second, they could employ more expensive faculty to author SuperText content and less expensive course administrators to oversee students' live interactions—a version of "flipping the classroom." This model could drive down costs to only $825 per student—or by as much as 40 percent. That's far more expensive than MOOCs, but significantly less than traditional delivery. Moreover, with this approach, schools can maintain the benefits of face-to-face education, such as small class sizes.

Third, schools could use Super- Text to bundle their courses to support just-in-time education. "With SuperText, business education has the potential to move to mini-courses that are delivered to the learner…on demand," the authors write. "Would such iTunes-like business education models wipe out the full-time MBA program? Not necessarily, but it would at least dramatically change the way in which business education is delivered."

To read the 27-page report, which also covers topics such as intellectual copyright and the role of research, visit mackinstitute.wharton.upenn.edu/2014/ will-video-kill-classroom-star/.

Curating a Digital Experience

Digital signage has become a common tool that business schools use to communicate their news and accomplishments to their campus communities. But determining how to design, place, and use them can be both art and science, says Melody Walker, director of communications at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

The school recently placed two large displays from the Planar Clarity Matrix video wall system line in its newly opened Knight Hall—one in the first-floor lobby and one in the third-floor gathering area. The first-floor sign is an 86 inch by 52 inch LED digital display with three panels. The panels include a touchscreen overlay that works much like a giant iPad to allow users to interact with the narrative content. The third-floor sign has an eight-screen display that measures 240 inches by 52 inches. Both signs are programmed with content such as stock data, Google news, local traffic, and weather; profiles of Olin community members; a photo gallery slide show; social media content; and fun facts about the school and region.

The school integrated Microsoft's content management platform SharePoint 2010 with digital signage software platform Four Winds Interactive to customize the content on each display. The software pulls information from Olin's Facebook, Twitter, and blog posts to keep content fresh.

Before the signs were unveiled, the communications staff created a stockpile of "evergreen" content—such as student and faculty profiles and interesting facts about the school. They also follow a content calendar with deadlines to create new content throughout the year. Keeping the content stream flowing "seemed overwhelming a few months ago," says Walker, "but now that it is up and running, it's exciting to be able to push content out to a wider audience."

Business schools often view the installation of digital signage as a way to add a "wow" factor to their facilities, but there's more to it than that, says Adrienne Wartts, the school's web content management specialist. Used correctly, she says, such signage can build community by providing "equal parts inspiration and information."

Crowdsourcing Business Education

What will business schools look like in ten years? That's the question behind "Business Education Jam: Envisioning the Future," a 60-hour online collaborative event to be held September 30 to October 2. Featuring real-time discussion, live polling, and chats with prominent thinkers in the industry, the Business Education Jam will bring together students, alumni, faculty, staff, business leaders, and policymakers in a large-scale brainstorming session.

The idea for the Jam was sparked by this year's 100th anniversary of Boston University's School of Management in Massachusetts, explains Steven Davidson, the school's assistant dean of strategic initiatives and student learning. "We've held many speaker series and lectures that inspired a great deal of reflection," he says. "Our faculty started to ask the question, 'What will the future look like?'"

Kenneth Freeman, the school's dean, was familiar with IBM's "innovation jams"—massive online, centrally managed conferences that IBM developed in 2001 to bring together its globally distributed workforce in synchronous brainstorming sessions. Freeman approached the company about using the same platform to generate ideas on the future of business education. The event will be organized around ten themes, which range from "Supporting 21st-Century Competencies" to "Cultivating Innovation and Entrepreneurship." Participants can enter into scheduled 30-minute discussions, listen to guest speakers, or engage in discussions on each specific theme.

Participants can log in to the jam using any Internetenabled device, and they can enter or leave the conference at any time they wish. As they start topics, post questions, and make comments, an analytics team from IBM will track the data generated, from the number of participants and extent of their participation to polling results and the most popular ideas. "We'll also be posting highlights from that data during the event to help further spark conversation," says Davidson.

In addition to IBM, partner organizations for the event include GMAC, AACSB International, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, EFMD, the Ernst & Young Foundation, and PwC. Organizers hope to draw at least 4,000 to 5,000 participants from across business, academia, and government.

School of Management faculty plan to release a white paper on the data and ideas participants offer, with the potential to generate additional scholarship on the nature of global crowdsourcing events. "We hope this event will increase networks between business schools and industry and provide fertile ground for innovation that participants can take back to their organizations to pilot," says Davidson.

Those interested in participating in the Business Education Jam can register at smgworld.bu.edu/ businesseducationjam/.

Udacity to Offer 'Nanodegrees'

Udacity recently announced its creation of nanodegrees, which it describes as "a new type of credential for a modern workforce." With the help of about US$1.5 million from AT&T, Udacity will offer bundles of hands-on job-specific courses, which also will include a capstone project and career support. "You can get a nanodegree as you need it and earn new ones throughout your career, even if you need to switch paths," writes Clarissa Shen, vice president of business development and partnership, in a Udacity blog post.

The first nanodegrees will take approximately six to 12 months to complete and will focus on four job titles: front-end web developer, back-end web developer, iOS developer, and data analyst. Shen adds that AT&T will offer as many as 100 paid internships to students who complete the programs successfully.

In addition to AT&T, companies such as Google, Facebook, salesforce.com, and the data management platform Cloudera have supported this effort. Udacity will announce when its first nanodegree courses go live at www.udacity.com/nanodegrees.

AICPA Site Highlights The 'Future of Learning'

A new website from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) aims to harness the wisdom of crowds to improve lifelong learning among CPAs. Inspired by the findings of a recently released report from the AICPA Task Force on the Future of Learning, the interactive site outlines its recommendations and highlights innovations in professional development and education for certified public accountants.

The task force's recommendations for the profession include doing more with technology to enhance learning; creating learning experiences that are more personal, relevant, accessible, and competency-based; and developing a uniform and global compliance standard to measure learner competency.

Site visitors are encouraged to share and discuss the task force's recommendations. "Meaningful change won't be accomplished by any single organization working alone, which is why we're reaching out to tap the collective wisdom of the profession," says Lawson Carmichael, task force co-chair and the AICPA's senior vice president of strategy, people, and innovation.

For more information, visit futureoflearning.aicpa.org.