Business School Study Highlights Shifting Education Needs of “Digital Generations”

Business-oriented learners in generations Y and Z are increasingly open to online education and digital certifications, according to a new report from an association of business schools.

A new report from AACSB International is targeted at how university business schools operate as more digital-friendly students drive overall attendance.

That said, there are plenty of lessons that can be translated to other types of educators as well—including those working in the context of associations, which are increasingly seen as alternatives to traditional educational programs.

Understanding the Implications of the Digital Generation on Business Education, also commissioned by the Executive MBA Council and the International Consortium for Executive Education, highlights the changing expectations of “digital generations” in business education.

The report, a quantitative study based on online questionnaires submitted by individuals in 10 countries, found that many respondents were interested in nontraditional education options such as certificates and digital badges to extend their business education. For example, the research found that more than a quarter of respondents said certifications and digital badges could prove a useful substitute for a degree. Those offerings were especially of interest to those not looking to pursue an MBA or other form of graduate-level education.

“Certificates and digital certificates provide more attractive options for individuals employed full time and those holding a graduate degree. In an open-ended question, respondents frequently mentioned the convenience it would provide in their attempt to juggle current employment,” the report explained.

This factor was also highlighted in the fact that many learners, especially younger ones, desired to have a more self-directed learning approach, and those who have taken online educational offerings in the past tend to prefer “blended learning,” which is a mix of in-person and online education.

Ultimately, though, the report focused on the basic motivations for those looking to get more education. In the U.S., the main factors for wanting to learn included an improved standard of living, more career stability, increased job security, and improved leadership and management skills. Outside of the U.S., a much larger factor was the desire to gain international exposure and access.

The findings, while intriguing outside of the business school context, also prove promising within it, noted AACSB’s senior vice president and chief knowledge officer, Juliane Iannarelli.

“More than any other generation, individuals who will benefit most from advanced business education over the next decade are thinking broadly about delivery models, flexible opportunities, and the potential pathways through different learning experiences,” she said in a news release. “Fortunately, today’s business schools are already seeking ways in which they can pivot to better provide both comprehensive programs and more targeted learning modules—independently and with employer partners.”

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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