How will new online MBA courses disrupt Business Schools?

Meme by Paul Millerd (link and credit below)

I am asking myself this question and I hope the internet hivemind can help assess the situation. Let me outline why I think the question is worth asking.

I am gaining more clarity on the aspects I am putting together below — but I do not know the answer to the question I am putting out there on the title. As you may know (or not), I work at a public university with a strong research-focus in engineering and natural sciences. ETH Zurich is pretty high up in the global rankings. To be more specific, I work on developing teaching innovations in our department of management, technology and economics (D-MTEC). Our faculty are very active in research, and this distinguishes us from many business schools. But still, our students’ curriculum is somewhat similar to what business schools offer. So ultimately, we will be affected. Maybe in 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years.

Something is happening in the world of online MBA programmes with the emergence of cohort-based online courses. Something is coming in this billion dollar industry that will affect traditional brick-and-mortar business schools that are part of the Higher Education landscape. What can we expect?

I have seen OnDeck gain traction and making bold moves to become the “Stanford for the internet”. I discovered academics who take their side hustle center stage, like Scott Galloway. I found entrepreneurs who become teachers, like Seth Godin and his altMBA workshop. The creator economy can now rely on a software infrastructure that makes running an online MBA programme easy. The educational startup scene is flourishing.

What effect will it have on business schools? It is going to be their end? Transformation or disruption? Or is it just a trend?

Business schools offer a structured curriculum, delivered by hand-picked teachers, to a selected community of peers. Participants earn a certificate that gives evidence of their cultural capital. The peer networks that are formed during a one- or two-year MBA programme become social capital. Alumni connections can be exclusive short-cuts to high-paying corporate jobs, meaning that social and cultural capital can be exchanged into economic capital.

New online programmes do not yet compete on these dimensions. Instead, they offer similar content online to a global audience. Their competitive advantage is agility, flexibility, and a lower prize — especially compared to executive education.

  • What will this mean for traditional Business Schools and for Higher Education?
  • What are your perspectives on future scenarios?
  • How will the European experience be different from US experiences and global trends?

So, here is the question again:

How will new online MBA courses disrupt Business Schools?

Reply in the comments, or write me a DM on @ErikJentges!

Here are some resources I found valuable that helped let the question emerge:

Further reading:

Origin of the *meme picture on top by Paul Millerd and a good introduction on “why get an MBA”:

If you have never heard about ondeck, get a coffee and read:

Likewise, here is an eye-witness report on the altMBA experience:

And a podcast on reshaping education:


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