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Impact of COVID on MBA student experience and syllabus: A statistical analysis

Impact of COVID on MBA student experience and syllabus

The COVID19 pandemic changed the way the world worked. Individuals and institutions turned on their laptops and found workarounds to regular processes that everyone had taken for granted.

Business schools did pretty much the same. From physical classrooms, they moved the education delivery process online and adopted innovative ways (such as virtual and hybrid learning models) to ensure that the show would go on.

The impact of COVID19 was not just felt in the mode of delivery of MBA programs but also on the MBA syllabus, as seen in the report from the MBA Roundtable, which was prepared after a collective survey involving 155 deans, directors, and faculty members from 118 business schools worldwide.

Impact of COVID-19 on MBA Student Experience and Syllabus

Business education statistics

by BusinessBecause


Impact of COVID-19 on MBA syllabus

The majority of the schools (90%) reported that the program’s learning objectives have not changed in any manner due to the pandemic. However when it came to the curriculum content, 50% of the schools reported changes to it.

One noticeable aspect was that several programs saw COVID19 as a topic making an entry into various courses, especially the ones on leadership, ethics, SCM and HR.

A few programs (17%) also offered courses entirely revolving around COVID19. Check out this new and interesting course offered by Wharton.

Among the respondents, one said it wasn’t surprising to see COVID19 seeping into all courses, since that’s pretty much what it has done to every facet of our lives. The integrated way of looking at its impact across management subjects was helpful to students.

Business schools have also adapted in various ways to assist students overcome challenges during this difficult phase. The assignments for most of the courses have been modified.

Additionally, more flexibility with deadlines and the introduction of pass and fail grading are some other changes that were introduced to help students cope better with the academic workload.

Business school assessments have also seen a change. Around 29% have reduced the assessment workload, while 4 out of 10 schools have modified them.

The flexibility in the assessments’ submission deadlines and the grading for exams have made MBA student lives and the overall MBA experience better, in a tough environment.

COVID-19 impact on MBA program delivery

It doesn’t come as a shock that the biggest impact of COVID19 on MBA education was the manner in which programs and classes were delivered.

Close to 88% of all the surveyed programs changed their program delivery approach. That number rises to 98% when you only consider in-person programs.

At 59% the most favoured model was hybrid delivery, which involved a combination of in-person and online mode teaching.

A considerable chunk (39%) of MBA programs decided to take no chances with safety, and moved their entire program online – cutting out the in-person sessions completely.

These new models of teaching also encouraged business schools to take up innovative approaches in their online and hybrid classes.

Close to 95% of the programs used breakout sessions, making it the most popular option.

They also used messaging and chatting software to ensure communication and interaction between the faculty and students wasn’t curtailed, and the teaching process didn’t turn into a monologue.

A notch lower on the popularity scale, were options such as Q&A tools, gamification and classroom surveys.

Interestingly, lectures took the biggest hit among all these changes. The traditional preferred teaching approach tumbled by 38%, making way for more creative alternatives.

One of them being the concept of ‘flipped classrooms’, which went up by 78%. This approach required students to do all the pre-class reading at home.

That allowed teachers to use the classroom time to focus on problem-solving, making the overall session less theoretical and more practical.

Enrique Dans, a professor at IE Business School, understands the importance of being able to engage students in the class.

If the teacher is the only person talking, there’s no doubt that the same model could be moved online using technology. But that would make it extremely boring, and disengaged students would hate it.


COVID19 problems

These changes haven’t diminished the confidence of business schools in their academic curriculum. They think it retains the rigour and quality that it was originally designed for.

But it hasn’t been without a few teething problems. Two challenges that stood out were: inclusivity and class engagement.

Around 58% of the respondents felt it had become increasingly more difficult to retain the inclusive student experience after moving online. 86% were of the opinion that student engagement had taken a hit.

MBA student life is much more than classroom experience. There were some challenges in providing the same experience in a COVID19 impacted learning environment.

Around 88% said they found it tough to build a community outside the class now, compared to the pre-COVID19 days when there were events and activities taking place on the campus making it a more vibrant place.

In the absence of in-person meet-and-greet sessions and on-campus extracurriculars, programs turned to Zoom for social activities and events.

If not for the exact experience, these online interaction models still helped students get to know each other better in a more informal setting.

While it would be great to have students back on campus to enjoy the fully immersive experience that business schools are known for, most respondents were aware that the current model of teaching could extend to 2021 and possibly beyond.

Till that happens, it appears like these new teaching models, updated MBA syllabus and workarounds are what we have to live with.

Survey methodology

These findings are taken from the report titled ‘Current And Future Impact Of COVID-19 On The Business School Curriculum‘ based on the study done by MBA Roundtable, a non-profit that focuses on creating and sharing data related to innovation in curricula.

For this survey, the team connected with 1500+ participants from 379 business-schools located across the world.

The primary objective was to see how the Corona pandemic had impacted MBA student life and experiences around the globe.

Here’s the distribution of geography and respondent roles.

Region Number of respondents
USA 140
Canada 6
Europe 5
Asia-Pacific 3

65% were from full-time MBA, 71% part-time MBA and there were some respondents from masters programs as well.

Roles Percentage
Deans 19%
Academic Directors 37%
Non-Academic Directors 28%
Faculty 31%

To find out more about how COVID-19 could impact your business school experience, check out the latest updates on BusinessBecause, a world-leading website for MBA and business master’s candidates.

This article is part of CrystalConnect, an outreach initiative by MBA Crystal Ball.

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4 thoughts on “Impact of COVID on MBA student experience and syllabus: A statistical analysis”

  1. Thanks. Very informative.

    1. I have seen stats on increase in applications to b schools during pandemic however did the class size increase at schools proportionally or did applicants plan to defer and most schools saw less students in the class? In short is pandemic a good time to apply looking at competition?
    2. What impact has covid had on hiring?
    3. Since the pandemic hasn’t slowed down yet, did the schools intimate whether gmat would continue to be waived off in 2021 admission cycle as well?

  2. Excellent questions, Kinshuk.

    1. Last year, Bschools had no idea that a pandemic would happen, so they did not have any time to plan for it either. They had already completed their application process assuming a full-house.

    But a lot of admitted international students deferred their joining date by a year. So classes were smaller than usual. With all the uncertainty, bschools still are quite uncertain about how the tide will turn.

    Whether it’s a good time to apply or not will depend on:

    A. Your personal/career priorities: This includes your age, career trajectory, growth aspirations, financial status.

    B. External factors: Competition is likely to be higher for the following 2 reasons.

    – With the deferred students getting back in the picture, there’ll be lesser seats on offer.

    – Many strong applicants who decided not to apply last year, will get back in the ring this season.

    2. Hiring got hit last year, as most traditional MBA recruiters put a freeze on recruitment. In fact, several of them were forced to lay off many good employees. This meant that a lot of recent MBA graduates were left in the lurch.

    But seems like there’s a silver lining. Based on a research done by GMAC, hiring is expected to bounce back in the coming year. Here’s how the statistics look like.

    Before the pandemic over 90% of the surveyed recruiters had expressed an interest in hiring. This number dropped to 77% in the pandemic year. But for their 2021 recruitment, the number bounced back to 90%. That’s a promising sign.

    Read more here:

    3. Several bschools waived GMAT / GRE requirements for the previous season, primarily because all test centers closed for a while before the online / home versions of GMAT and GRE were launched. Bschools did not want their admissions to be stalled because of one factor (test scores).

    Now the online version has been around for long enough, and test centers have also opened. So getting a score will not be a bottleneck.

    Having said that, the new admissions season is still several months away, so we’ll have to wait and watch to find out what they do.

    Our suggestion – don’t wait for bschools to take the call. By the time they do, it would be too late to respond, if you aren’t ready.

    So if you are planning to apply this year, go ahead and take the test. Prepare well, and try to score high. And be ready to battle it out among what is likely to be the most competitive admissions season.

  3. I am currently working in Production Engg in an automotive firm in NCR. I have an experience of 5 yrs in this field. I am looking forward to accelerating my progress, both in terms of expertise and money-wise.

    Please guide whether to go for MS in the same field will be better, with some options to look forward to, or go for an MBA and change my field.

  4. Hi Rishind, when it comes to a choice between MS and MBA degrees, the general rule of thumb is that an MS is more suited to fresh graduates and early stage professionals with under 2 years of experience. Considering where you are in your career, an MBA will be a better fit. But that’s only one aspect among many to consider.

    The 3 objectives you’ve cited (i.e. career acceleration, gaining expertise and making more money) can be met with most advanced degrees. Which means your current framework is too vague to be of any help.

    So you’ll have to get more specific in terms of which industry, goal and geography you’d want to work in. Then work backwards to arrive at the best degree to get there. Here’s an article that should help you get a better plan in place:

    Have you thought about the COVID implications of your decision? Are you ok with the uncertainty that comes with it?


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