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  • Writer's pictureValentin Vassilev

Growth Opportunities for B-Schools Amid the Covid-19 Outbreak

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

Schools can benefit from the crisis.

The disruption caused to the higher education sector by the Covid-19 outbreak is opening up growth opportunities. Business schools can gain advantage and consider strategic changes. Here are two major trends to consider.

The sudden shift to virtual instruction demonstrates that schools are adapting, but many should take the opportunity to considerably improve their online offering.

The other potential positive outcome from the Covid-19 outbreak and expected subsequent recession is that application numbers tend to grow during economic downturns. However, schools should be proactive in adjusting to any changes in applicants’ preferences.

Embracing technology

New technologies have been changing higher education for years. Online classes and programmes are no longer considered exotic. However, the coronavirus outbreak has shown that the expansion of online teaching expertise could have been faster. The current situation is especially challenging for institutions which have been resisting online education.

Schools need to work in two directions.

· Technology. The first involves investment in adequate technology, enabling interactive teaching and learning. Second, staff needs to get proper preparation because many don’t have any experience in remote instruction. In the US, for instance, 70% of the 1.5 million faculty members have never taught a virtual course before, according to education technology researcher Bay View Analytics cited by Bloomberg.

· Skill set. For online teaching and learning to be effective, many problems have to be solved both for professors and students. For example, it is vital to keep the undivided attention of students for the duration of the whole lecture or conversation. Some tend to get distracted during online instruction sessions and schools are aware of that. That’s why many of them are reminding students to take online classes as seriously as they would face-to-face ones. Another problem is that teachers might find it challenging to evaluate the effectiveness of their online delivery.

The crisis will certainly force many schools to look for answers to these questions and those who find the answers will benefit most. Some experts believe that schools that embrace technology stand to gain the most from the crisis. “My sense is that if an institution is reasonably savvy about getting some of its classes online and making them available to people, it might actually be good for the university’s finances,” Caroline Hoxby, the Scott and Donya Bommer professor in economics at Stanford University, told Times Higher Education.

Increase in MBA applications

Some in higher education circles now predict a possible decline in applications, but history has repeatedly demonstrated that people tend to go back to school during economic crises.

It’s a very predictable and reliable pattern,” says Stacey Kole, Deputy Dean for MBA Programmes and Clinical Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “When there’s a go-go economy, fewer people decide to go back to school. When things go south, the opportunity cost of leaving work is lower.

During each of the four officially declared recessions since 1980, the number of people taking the GMAT— the de-facto admissions exam for MBA programmes — surged or was about to surge. During the global financial crisis of 2008–09, US undergraduate and graduate enrolment rose by about 5% and 10% a year, respectively, until 2011, according to data released by consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

Not only business education institutions in the US enjoyed strong application numbers during the financial crisis. In 2008, 77% of full-time MBA programmes globally reported that they received more applications than they had in 2007, according to data compiled by GMAC. In 2009, nearly 70% of one-year full-time MBA programmes reported an increase in the number of applications compared with the previous year.

The economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak is expected to be severe. The International Monetary Fund said the global economy will shrink by 3%, the deepest contraction since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Economic growth is expected to reach 5.8% next year if the pandemic fades in the second half of 2020. However, as the pandemic has had diverse effects, business schools should closely monitor any shifts in preference among MBA prospects and be flexible in their offers.

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