Coming to a business school near you: disruption

Over the past few years it seems you can’t read about higher education without thinking about how ripe it is for disruption. Rising costs, employer dissatisfaction with graduate skills, technology advances and new entrants are making the case for the need for new ways of thinking about and delivering education. Based on some recent developments, business schools may be the first to feel the heat.

Clay Christensen, who popularised the idea of disruption, has written and spoken quite a bit about disruption in higher education in general, and the management education market in particular. So how is this beginning to play out in the management education sphere? There are many new initiatives afoot.

Low-cost MBA alternatives

From Kigali, Rwanda, one woman is piecing together the equivalent of an MBA by taking a series of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, from different providers. For less than US$1000, she’s taken courses from some of the top business schools in the world and the website, No-Pay MBA, offers information to help others do the same.

Students can now take a variety of courses from various providers in a ‘cafeteria style’, like the example above. While this buffet of courses doesn’t (yet) add up to a degree, at some point some organisation is going to figure out how to assign or award credit for these disparate classes – and accredit the programme of study. Then students will be able to bundle together their own degrees and certificates, choosing the best courses from the best schools and building their own 'All-Star' MBA programme.

New entrants with new offerings

A few weeks ago I mentioned that a wide array of players are entering the executive education and corporate training market and here are some recent developments:
  • • McKinsey, one of the top strategy consultancies in the world, recently launched McKinsey Academy. This new platform uses McKinsey consultants to teach and give feedback, social learning and group-based projects, and adaptive learning and game mechanics to help companies develop their internal talent. Courses include Business Strategy, Mastering Challenging Conversations, and McKinsey’s Approach to Problem Solving, among others.
  • Skillshare is “a learning community for creators” and offers a series of online courses to students who pay US$10/month for unlimited access to courses taught by practitioners. Skillshare, launched late last year, now has over 750,000 students and courses range from Email Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Photography to Visual Storytelling and Getting Started in Hand Lettering. Companies can purchase an enterprise licence and many of Silicon Valley’s rising stars are clients.
  • Udemy for Business offers companies a way to “train your employees better, faster and more efficiently than ever before” by offering courses in programming, web design, digital marketing and business skills, among others. Client companies include many of the multinationals that business school executive education units covet.
  • • Coursera offers Wharton’s Business Foundations series of four courses (Marketing, Financial Accounting, Operations Management and Corporate Finance). Through Coursera’s Signature Track, students can earn a specialisation certificate for US$595, completing all four courses plus a capstone project.
Universities and business schools are innovating too

That’s not to say that universities and business schools are not innovating too. For example:
  • • The Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar is innovating around the curriculum to better prepare students for the new realities of work. Their new curriculum is “focused on student problem-solving and real world engagement, rather than just book learning, which is the norm in India. They have recruited faculty from all over the world to come and teach their students in a multi-disciplinary manner”.
  • Georgia Tech just announced an online master of science in Computer Science, offered in collaboration with Udacity and AT&T. The programme is delivered entirely through MOOCs and costs under US$7,000. Could a business degree be next?
  • IMD is getting closer to business through a new partnership with Cisco valued at US$10 million to “develop thought leadership and address business challenges in digital transformation”. The idea behind the partnership is for IMD “to become the world leading destination for research, innovation and leadership to drive digital transformation to all aspects of enterprises, in every industry”.
  • • Harvard Business School launched HBX, a suite of three business fundamental courses – Business Analytics, Economics for Managers and Financial Accounting. They also offer individual courses (the first one launched was Disruptive Strategy, with Clay Christensen). Coming soon is HBX Live!, which allows participants worldwide to interact with faculty and each other in real-time.
Those of us in colleges and universities are in for a wild ride.

Margaret Andrews is an academic administrator, instructor and consultant. Academic leadership positions include vice-provost at Hult International Business School, where she manages a global academic team across five campuses in four countries; associate dean of management programs at Harvard University’s Division of Continuing Education or DCE; and executive director of the MBA Program at the MIT Sloan School of Management, USA. She teaches a variety of leadership and strategy courses at Harvard DCE and is also the managing director of Mind and Hand Associates, a boutique consulting firm serving a global higher education clientele. You can reach her at


Very informative. I took some business courses from prestigious schools. From the learner's perspective, one thing I have noticed is that there should be guidance on taking those courses. Without good guidance they are less useful. From a university viewpoint, it may be a killer for making a good profit, which eventually happens in the future.

Usukhbayar Ariunbold on the University World News Facebook page