Great Scott(sdale). Not this agAIn...

25 October 2023

Ian Hawkings examines the potential for AI to revolutionise the delivery of business education


Firstly, apologies for the rather convoluted title.  

Secondly, sorry for writing about AI – it's about a year since most of us first clapped eyes on ChatGPT and it’s been somewhat ubiquitous over the period. 

Nevertheless, I felt compelled having attended the recent EMBAC (Executive MBA Council) conference in Scottsdale, Arizona at the beginning of the month.  

The stand-out plenary – and they were all good – was given by Sarah Grant, who is in charge of the IDEA Lab at Imperial College Business School. At a time when the world seems at best to be wholly uncertain, at worst flapping, about what to do with AI, Sarah and the team at Imperial seem to know what’s up. You see, the IDEA Lab (previously known as the EdTech Lab, set up by David Lefevre) has been researching AI and its applications for some years now.  

Sarah makes the point that current discussions in the business school community on AI's potential predominantly focus on enhancing the existing education model. And that these AI implementations largely serve as additive elements, rather than disruptive forces within the prevailing business model. Ie: Schools are playing on the fringes. 

Her point is that schools need to be bolder... In Scottsdale she said, “looking to the future, a more disruptive, digitally native model of business education appears - one fundamentally oriented around AI and supported by humans, rather than the other way around. This transformative approach could unlock unprecedented opportunities, enabling schools to deliver high-quality education to many students, managed by a lean team of staff.”  

She adds, “By embracing this model, the business school community opens itself to the vast potential of AI, paving the way for a revolution in executive and management education that goes beyond mere enhancement and moving toward a wholesale reinvention of the educational landscape.” 

The FT recently added to the debate in an article looking at how AI is forcing a rethink for EMBA programmes. But much of the article was given over to how learning about AI is being built into existing programmes to enable participants to land good jobs upon graduation. The only part of the article that spoke about how schools can use AI to fundamentally change the way they deliver programmes focussed on input from....yep, Imperial College Business School. 

So, we know AI is important, we know students need to understand it to land good jobs in tech, and we also know it has the ability to entirely change the way business education is delivered and assessed.  

But if you want to know how, you’ll have to ask Sarah Grant. 

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