Business schools prepare to meet the next generation of leaders’ tech needs

Business schools, Technology, Leadership

What are institutions doing to meet the tech needs of future leaders? Business education PR experts Stephanie Mullins-Wiles and Jamie Hose from BlueSky Education find out more.

Over half of business owners use artificial intelligence for customer service, cybersecurity, and fraud management, according to a Forbes Advisor survey. Inventory management, content production, and product recommendations are also popular uses. The technology’s rapid development from an experimental gimmick to a business essential has redefined the portfolio of skills the next generation of managers and employees will need to succeed in their professions. For business schools, it’s a call to innovate.

Curriculums must include modules or workshops that familiarise students with generative AI (GenAI) tools. Using these resources efficiently and ethically is already fast becoming an unavoidable part of business and entrepreneurship. They also present business schools with opportunities to create more immersive and engaging simulations for in-class learning, especially when paired with other technologies, such as virtual reality.

Creating immersive, interdisciplinary courses

“Programmes should focus on fostering adaptability, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving. This might mean more interdisciplinary programmes that blend technology with diverse fields, including management, geopolitics, and finance,” says Alain Goudey, Associate Dean for Digital at NEOMA Business School.

“We also employ gamification – incorporating game design elements into teaching practices – to increase engagement, motivation, and retention of information. We can expect this will become more common in the future.”

That is part of the premise behind NEOMA’s online course on Generative AI, which aims to familiarise students with a range of digital tools through an interactive videogame-type scenario, “Master of Alchemy.” By exploring the World of Alchemists, learners gather “vital information and hidden secrets,” absorbing knowledge in a fun and engaging way about how to use new technologies.

“We can expect AI, immersive technology, and other digital tools to make education experiences more personalised. Systems will be able to adapt in real-time to students’ learning preferences, altering the pace and content of programmes to better fit their individual requirements,” says Goudey.

Fostering resilience and agility

Sheffield Business School focuses on training students to develop their digital skills within the broader context of developing an entrepreneurial mindset. Topics ranging from efficient supply chain management and customer service, both of which will be revolutionised by AI tools in the coming years, are taught across the School’s courses in Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Digital Marketing, and International Business.

“Innovations in technology give opportunities to the next generation of leaders to improve their businesses and products through better communication with suppliers and customers,” says Joel Gray, Assistant Dean of Teaching and Learning for the College of Business, Technology and Engineering at Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University.

He believes that teaching digital skills just for the sake of it and because of widespread perceptions that Generation Alpha (people born after 2010) will be a cohort of digital natives is “misguided.” Instead, when new technologies are implemented in teaching, it should be done from a considered starting point.

For the next academic year, starting in September, Sheffield Business School plans to reduce traditional academic assessments such as essays and exams, focusing instead on “turbocharging real-world and digital-based tasks, including the production of videos and screencasts, social media collateral, and projects and ideas brought to us by our industry partners,” he says.

Setting the foundations for excellence

This autumn, NHH Norwegian School of Economics will welcome the first cohort of students on its new Bachelor in Business, Economics and Data Science programme. It is the second bachelor-level degree to be offered by the School, designed in direct response to the need for specialist skills in working life and interest from existing and potential future students, says Håkon Otneim, Associate Professor at NHH and Academic Head of the programme.

“Rapid digitalisation means future business graduates will need competencies in programming, application design, utilising and implementing AI tools, and more,” he says.

“Our goal is to equip future economists and business leaders with the sound analytical skills, understanding of technology, broad social competence, and a strong commitment to society that will enable them to achieve excellence in their careers.”

In recognition of the fact that younger generations spend much of their time online (51 per cent of US teenagers spend upwards of four hours a day on social media), NHH also adapts its communication channels, using digital social media platforms to connect with students who may be considering a business degree after finishing secondary school.

“We are able to post a variety of content on these channels that help potential students envision what life will be like at and after NHH, such as videos of international internships and even a message from Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre,” says Otneim.

Overall, business schools are showing their dedication to meeting the needs of present and future students by redesigning curriculums to include new digital and AI tools. These tools enable programme designers to create more engaging and immersive courses, and schools are able to communicate more freely and authentically with potential applicants through using online social media platforms to showcase aspects of what life is like for students.

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