Keen to ensure their MBA programs offer students the most relevant of courses, business schools have usually been early adopters of modern advances in technology. Recently, the release of Apple's iPad has created much interest amongst the business school community.
A trial at IMD business school in Switzerland this year, where students on the school's six-day Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP) program were each given an iPad, pre-loaded with presentations, case studies, related reading and program information was hailed a success by the organizers.
IMD's iPad pilot program
After having piloted the iPad in a partnership program with Allianz Global Investors at the beginning of May, I am convinced that this device will revolutionize executive education, explains IMD's Professor Bettina Büchel, director of the OWP program. The feedback from IMD faculty, staff and the [students] was overwhelmingly positive.
IMD's chief technical officer, Dr Iain Cooke explains to TopMBA.com that, while Apple's iPad has not yet been introduced to their MBA program, the trial was such a success that it will most likely be looked at next year. In the meantime, many of the Swiss business school's programs have chosen to incorporate the device.
Since the trial program, 15 different programs [at IMD] have signed up to use the iPad, with a total of around 1,000 [business school students] participating, says Cooke.
I think there is a huge potential for this kind of device across all sectors of education, he continues. You could maybe argue less so for business schools, but I feel we have proved it is still a useful tool.
One of the most notable benefits that IMD became aware of during the experiment was the substantial cost-savings, and environmental benefits of lowering the school's paper consumption.
Business schools use a lot of paper. So much so that on some programs the cost of the paper is more than the cost of the iPad, so there are clear savings. However, if it's linked into lectures, as in [IMD's trial] then it becomes more than just a paper replacement, Cooke explains, drawing attention to the tablet computer's ability to not only hold masses of information that, in its physical form would fill a library, but also that the information can be updated in real-time, as a lecturer speaks.
Previously, other business schools have trialled similar technology-based paper saving initiatives, with disappointing results.
The Kindle e-reader
In May 2010, Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, USA published their results of a trial where 62 first year students at the school were given Amazon's e-reader Kindle DX, as an alternative to traditional paper based textbooks and other course content.
However, Michael Koenig, Darden's director of MBA operations explains that the Kindle was simply not advanced enough for the business school classroom. You can't move between pages, documents, charts and graphs simply or easily enough compared to the paper alternatives, he points out in his analysis of the trial.
In fact, while 90 to 95% of the student participants in Darden's trial would recommend the Kindle DX device for personal activities, a total of 75 to 80% claimed they would not recommend the technology to an incoming Darden MBA student.
Meanwhile, French business school HEC Paris is also looking at the benefits of the iPad for the school, just not in the classroom.
At this stage it would be way too early [to implement the iPad into HEC's MBA program]. We are still discovering the benefits of the tool, explains Valérie Gauthier, associate dean of the HEC MBA program.
The perfect tool
Instead, for the time being at least, HEC are trialling Apple's device for marketing purposes, so that current MBA students are able to add their own content to the school's website.
What we want is not a promotional tool, but rather real life moments in the form of blogs, podcasts and videos [from HEC's MBA students], Gauthier explains. The iPad is the perfect tool.
It seems that while business schools are certainly keen to adopt new technology, for the time being the vast majority of MBA program materials are likely to remain paper-based. However, with the cost-savings and future advancements in computer-based technology, as well as more and more computer-literate students enrolling on MBA programs, it seems likely to become commonplace in the future.