Thursday, February 6, 2014

Will My Samba School Go Online, Too?

This post continues the theme of MOOCs' impact on the teaching tradition I started earlier in this blog. Now I am presenting examples of how the teaching tradition vulnerability map can be appled to real-life educational providers and their disciplines. I am also explaining how to strategically assess the positions disciplines take on the map.

Chart 1 displays a complex educational product from a stand-alone provider. It is a classical MBA program in General Management designed by an average European business-school to a commonly accepted template in the 1990s. (Such programs are still widely offered across the industry.) The bubbles on the map are disciplines the MBA consists of. The size of the bubbles corresponds to the number of teaching hours the disciplines occupy within the program. Each discipline combines a core course and "satellite" seminars of the same subject area.

Chart 1. The multi-disciplinary representation of an educational product
by a stand-alone provider. A classical MBA in General Management

Chart 1 data sheet
The disciplines were scored against the criteria of The discipline telework potential (X axis) and The interptretational power of the discipline provider (Y axis). I invited instructors (business school lecturers and professors), who have taught a similar material for 5-20 years, for a quick interview to rank the 14 disciplines. I also did my own ranking for all of the disciplines. An arithmetic average of the two evaluations for each course was put in Chart 1 data sheet. Eventually, the components of a classical MBA scattered on the map, and those most challenged by the MOOC technology showed up in the right lower corner of the Tansactional Education

Being far from an impeccably designed and performed scientific research, this snapshot survey, I think, draws a pretty accurate picture of the deepening MBA crisis. I also believe that it promotes some insights on the change unfolding in management education and on what can be done about it. It supports simple but needful ideas like "if you want to save your MBA, restructure it for a balanced seamless combination of paid and free disciplines taught online and offline" or "a business school's portfolio of teaching technologies must match its portfolio of disciplines (programs)", etc.

Chart 2 exhibits multiple educators (11) from very distinct areas with portfolios reduced to one core discipline. The bubbles are those disciplines but, unlike on Chart 1, they are all of the same size since they come from different providers, and it is only their positions on the vulnerability map that matters in this case.

Chart 2. Multiple providers with mono-disciplinary representation of portfolios

Chart 2 data sheet
To rank the disciplines by the two criteria and locate them on the map, I interviewed 10 individual providers, whom I consider experienced and successful in their professions. The X and Y for the discipline of Strategic Management I borrowed from Chart 1: this is the only representative of management education in Chart 2, the others come from totally distinct horizontals and verticals of society. Details of the ranking can be seen in the attached data sheet.

On Chart 2 all the five fields of the vulnerability map have residents. Those old-school teaching providers, whose disciplines lie in the red corner of the Transactional Education, are going to be hit the hardest by the MOOC technology unless they fully and efficiently implement it in their classrooms (I question their ability to do so). Those with disciplines in the green Synergy area appear to be in a better situation, as new educational technologies will streamline and enrich their traditional face-to-face teaching: they only need to remain strategically consistent and to rule out all radical re-designs of their business models. Brand- and reputation-focused strategies of the right upper corner of the map - the Defensive Elitism field - cannot be successfully implemented by many. Educators, who fail to use the MOOC tech for creating and retaining loyal elite groups in the market to preserve live teaching in a classroom, will either diversify or exit the industry. Providers, whose products are placed in the left lower corner of the Defensive Corporatism, will need to learn how to use online teaching technologies for establishing long-term corporate ties based on tailored educational packages; they must sell professions augmented with organizational fit. Finally, those educators, who happen to have their disciplines in the safe harbor of the Sciences of man, should leverage their traditional positioning and avoid temptations of going online.

How can an educatonal provider strategically assess the postion of his portfolio on the vulnerability map? If you run a samba school and for some incredible reason have read that far, try this:

1. Embrace the vision. Two variables, which define the location of each discipline, are free and independent from your preferences, intellect or money. You must take the position of your discipline (or your portfolio) as an objective depiction of how teaching in your area will look quite soon. That ultimate vision will help you understand the gap between your current situation and the emerging reality. But more importantly, the vision will help you choose the way.

2. Choose the way. You should decide whether or not you accept (reconcile, admire) the picture you are shown as model for your teacher's future. And this is very, very personal, even if you think on behalf of an educational institution. If yes, you accept it, go researching wheher you can overcome the gap. If your decision is not, and you reject that model, start looking for alternatives to what you do today inside or beyond your industry. The same conclusion follows if the gap turns out too wide for you.

3. Understand the gap. Answer "What does it take in my case to materialize the vison?" "Do I have what it takes?" "Can I get what I lack?" "Do I have the time for that?" If it's bigger than you, diversify. If you can do it, do it now.

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