The social business school
Barely a week passes without someone questioning the future of business education. At the EAIE conference in Liverpool a few weeks ago, there was even a session titled ‘What’s wrong with business education?’
Of course, there are many views of where business education should be heading – a more ethical future, a more sustainable future, a more interdisciplinary future to name but a few – and all have merits. Perhaps there is another that should be considered – a more social future.
Having just completed research for LinkedIn, the potential power of social media in all aspects of business school life is very clear. More than 7 out of 10 admissions teams use social media to engage potential students and almost all (98%) career services teams use social media, whether working with students, alumni or employers.
In our own research, social media usage among potential students, current students and alumni is high, making it an ideal tool for marketing, brand building and ongoing communications. And that’s not all. The latest findings in our long running study, GenerationWeb, suggests that 43% of students are using social media to support their studies, seeking information and collaborating with others on campus and around the world.
Social media can also directly support the teaching and learning experience. At the University of Sussex Twitter is being used in the lecture theatre. International students sometimes find it hard to contribute, taking their time to translate or being uncertain about how to phrase a question. A live Twitter feed allows international students to submit questions in a format they feel comfortable with and engages them in class debate.
But the social business school needs to be about more than technology. While the technology can enable, it is the human that creates the content, starts the conversation and joins the debate. And this hints at a wider agenda for the social business school.
Social media as its name suggests is meant to be social and a social business school should be as well. That means more collaboration between departments rather than silo working and a more outward looking approach to faculties across a university, putting business in context and helping students understand the role of business in society.
The social business school might also make more use of smaller classes and tutorials rather than lectures with hundreds of students. There may be a greater emphasis on project working in student teams rather than the focus on the individual and year-end exams.
None of this diminishes the need for a rigorous academic experience and a strong grasp of business fundamentals, but it does suggest that alongside these studies, there needs to be a broader understanding of the world for a student to succeed in business.
In truth, much of this is not new. A few years ago CarringtonCrisp worked with the University of Winnipeg to help with their marketing. At the time they had already developed an undergraduate offer described as ‘Beyond Business’. The University had a strong belief that if you wanted to study business, you also had to study other subjects such as History, Politics, Psychology and more, to get a rounded view of business in society.
What has changed is the technology. Even a few years ago, the opportunities that social media networks offer were more limited than they are today. What is also different is the big picture view of the social business school. In the past, some business schools may have had a view about business in society, some may have used technology to deliver aspects of learning and some may have integrated social media in to their marketing and communications, but there was little sense of the joined-up social business school. Today, the social business school is not only a possibility, but in places it is becoming a reality.