01 Jun 2020 20:05 IST

A revamp needed for MBA 4.0 programme

Institutions need to invest in an education that will prepare students for the ‘future of work’

Management institutions globally are facing major challenges today, which are a function of tectonic shifts in the techno-socio-economic landscape of the world; and the digital revolution occurring in Industry 4.0, ushering in the shift from an industrial to a knowledge economy.

Today, Industry 4.0, an increasingly-used term to collectively represent businesses driven by AI, Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics, Cloud Computing, IoT technologies, among others is creating new kinds of job roles whilst simultaneously rendering redundant, if not irrelevant, a large slice of the conventional workforce. The question is, how should educational institutions respond to this changing nature of work in terms of new skill sets? What kind of education will equip the students to remain relevant in the future?

Learning to learn

IFIM Business School, Bengaluru, in association with National Human Resources Development Network (NHRDN), undertook an initiative to identify the relevant skill sets for Industry 4.0. The findings revealed that the future professionals would be those who are a combination of a liberal education having a wide breadth of knowledge across multiple disciplines, combined with in-depth knowledge and skills of a specialised area. According to the study, successful future professionals will be ‘T’ shape professionals that combine both width of a liberal framework of education, and depth in specialised areas of one’s profession.

The study also pointed out that technological disruptions may result in professionals finding themselves becoming ‘irrelevant’. Hence, ‘learning to learn’ or learning orientation will be the key for future professionals to remain relevant.

This can be achieved only when educational institutions take major initiatives in investing in an education that will prepare students for the “future of work.” This will entail educational institutions to invest in education that prepares the graduates to embrace change and be life-long learners. Institutions will require a rebooting of their curriculum, pedagogy of teaching-learning and the faculty.

Changes, beginning with curriculum

The first change will have to be the curriculum. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, the curriculum should facilitate the process of ‘discovery’ — encouraging ‘exploration’ and ‘experimentation’. Students should be able to customise their learning pathways depending on their style, pace, and learning orientation.

The second big change will be to facilitate ‘holistic development’ of the students. As the “100-year life” becomes a reality, majority of that life is anticipated to be spent working. Students will need to be exposed to multiple disciplines across humanities, performing arts, design, language, science including natural sciences covering all the eight dimensions of multiple intelligences. This exposure will enable a student to discover one’s potential. A holistically developed graduate is expected to be prepared to embrace change with an ability to respond effectively to changing career options at different stages of one’s life.

As data becomes the new oil, the third change will be the integration of technology across courses. Today, AI and Big Data are being used across diverse professions, ranging from medical sciences and healthcare to sports and entertainment. Institutions will need to develop amongst their graduates an appreciation of data integration with their areas of professional expertise.

In the years ahead, most of the repetitive tasks and easily deciphered problems will be handled by machines. Human beings will be more involved in decision-making and imagining the future possibilities. The pedagogy of teaching-learning will need to move away from information dissemination to imagining the future. A typical in-class case discussion will no more be about ‘what happened?’ but will be about ‘what can happen?’. This will imply a change both in the content and in the delivery. Institutions will need to travel that extra mile to re-ignite the imagination ability of their students, take an approach to learning that can facilitate self-learning and make students learn ‘how to learn’.

In a country like India, where exists the issue of social inequality, our institutions need to make students socially responsible and be sensitive to the issues of distributive justice. No professional will be able to function in the future without an understanding of the impact of their actions on the environment and society. Interventions that expose students to the issues of social reality, including the SDGs (UN Sustainable Development Goals), will be a requirement in the planning of the curriculum for the future.

The essence of ‘leadership development’ lies in ‘self-management’ and ‘self-development’. The findings of the IFIM-NHRDN survey clearly indicated ‘wellness’ and ‘fitness’ as integral elements of managing one-self. As institutions prepare graduates for the ‘Future of Work’, there will be an urgent need to integrate ‘wellness’ and ‘fitness’ as part of the required curriculum, particularly in the post Covid era.

Changing role of faculty

As the curriculum for Industry 4.0 undergoes a metamorphosis, the pedagogy of teaching-learning will also undergo a makeover. With most of the content being available online, the role of faculty will shift from the traditional task of lecturing to more of coaching and mentoring. This shift will aid the process of ‘self-discovery’ and ‘self-learning’ amongst students. This shift has got a further boost, thanks to the widespread adaptation of online learning during the lockdown.

Going forward, faculty will be required to have a probing mindset, ‘what can happen?’, to foster the ability of imagination amongst students. Learning experience will undergo a shift from students being mere passive listeners in the process to becoming active co-producers of new insights. This highlights the rising importance of group works, simulations, games, role plays, industry interactions, industry-relevant problem-solving as compared to earlier roles. Faculty will be playing the role of an athlete coach providing individualised guidance and mentoring to each student. The shift will be from ‘one-to-many’ to ‘one-to-one’ facilitated by the three ‘I’s of digital learning: Interactive, Integrated and Individualised.

Active interface between theory and practice

In today’s ever-evolving world, there is a need to develop an active interface between academia and practice to create the virtuous cycle of value creation involving all the three stakeholders: students, faculty, and practice. Implementation of curriculum for MBA 4.0 would depend on the active participation of all the stakeholders. For instance, the careful and thoughtful intervention of practitioners at important junctures in the curriculum is much needed to achieve a fit between their needs and skills imparted.

However, this is easier said than done. Tomorrow’s successful institutions will be those that can facilitate the process of ‘discovery,’ who can inculcate in graduates responsibility towards self, environment and society, who can combine the apparent contradictions of ‘professional’ skills with a ‘liberal’ foundation.

The challenge in India is that the majority of the internationally accredited (AACSB and EQUIS) MBA programmes are offered by single-discipline institutions. The good news is, that some of the forward thinking AACSB accredited institutions have taken the plunge to address the gap to transform into a multi-disciplinary new-age university. The launch of MBA 4.0, India’s first liberal-professional MBA, by IFIM Business School, the 6th B-School accredited by AACSB in India, is a step in that direction.

The programme will be offered from its Greater Mumbai campus at Vijaybhoomi University, which attempts to prepare its graduates for the future and positions itself as ‘India’s first liberal professional university.’ Peter Drucker had said, ‘Management is a Liberal Art’; in today’s context, this statement has become more relevant than ever before.

(The author is Director, IFIM Business School.)

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