Curriculum innovation in higher education institutions (HEIs)
Digital Native, Green MBA, Participatory Pedagogy, Authentic Assessment, Web 2.0, Disruptive Innovation, Social Media
A Participatory Pedagogy for the Digital Native: The Green MBA
Knowledge Universe Education
Asia and The Pacific
In collaboration with a British university, a small tertiary education institution in Singapore is offering a unique degree programme in a unique way. Tapping into the zeitgeist, is has developed a 'Green MBA' to be delivered in a format that is specially designed to appeal to the 'digital native'. The curriculum has been developed by a team of adjunct faculty from all around the globe; a custom-built delivery platform has been constructed that takes full advantage of the social media revolution; and learning design is conducive to a participatory pedagogy, where authentic learning tasks allow students to take centre stage.
This initiative came about as a result of a number of failures and false starts. A small teacher education college in Singapore, faced with an increasingly dynamic marketplace and rising competitive pressures, calculated that survival was only likely to be secured if it was to reinvent itself as a 21st century educational institution imparting 21st century skills. A name change, a broadening of the suite of course offerings in the education domain, the addition of a new School of Management with two new masters degree programmes and – perhaps most significantly – a paradigm shift in educational philosophy, all had to take place within a 12-month period and all within the confines of existing budgets.
The main objective was to avoid going out of business. A new Education Act in Singapore has made life very difficult for educational institutions operating on a small scale. The college in question was successful in servicing a niche market, but to meet higher overheads, and to reduce reliance upon a hitherto single target market, diversification became imperative, not only in terms of the scope of course offerings, but how and where these courses could be offered.
The Green MBA is to be the flagship programme of the re-branded, re-positioned college. The course has all the usual disciplines one would expect to find in an MBA programme, but at the foundation of each, are the principles of sustainable development. Economics is ecological economics, marketing is green and social marketing, organisational behaviour is organisational transformation for sustainability, and so on. It is not a mainstream MBA curriculum with sustainability tagged on the end. On the contrary, the learning outcomes of every module focus on corporate sustainability. The course is learning outcomes driven. Having determined what a student should know and be able to do once they graduate, the next task is to settle on the assessment instruments that will measure these learning outcomes ensuring, thereafter, that learning strategies are in alignment with the choice of these assessment instruments. To illustrate the point, a case-based, problem-solving approach (which this course favours) is not constructively aligned with an assessment regime that relies heavily on multiple-choice examinations.
Curriculum design is innovative, highly flexible and low cost. In simple terms, the guiding philosophy is that there is high quality material freely available on the Internet, and it is simply of a question of assembling a collection of ‘reusable learning objects’ (RLOs) of linking to them. These RLOs take many forms including open access journal articles, e-books, video clips, podcasts, data sets, slide decks, animations and images. Module authors (subject matter experts from around the world) then utilise these resources to provide a commentary on the key concepts and theories in each module (comprising six units), together with complementary interactive, authentic learning activities that provide students with opportunities to apply their knowledge. The approach to learning is one that embraces what might be described as a ‘participatory pedagogy’. Modules are delivered using a state-of-the-art, ‘Web 2.0’-enabled learning management system – or Collaborative Learning Space (CLS) – that takes full advantage of the burgeoning social networking phenomenon. The student’s personal profile page is ‘Facebook’-like in appearance and functionality, and there is an emphasis on active learning. A unique feature is that students get to be both consumers and producers of knowledge, in that the learning platform incorporates a facility that allows students to upload their own RLOs. Accompanied by appropriate commentary, these resources are peer reviewed in accordance with a 5-star rating system. This feature of the CLS is designed to enhance student engagement and contribute to a robust learning community.
Adjunct faculty from around the world facilitate all modules; the majority of whom are PhD qualified. Interaction with students is largely asynchronous through discussion boards (especially given time zone differences). A dedicated student services team that deals with a range of administrative, technical, and pastoral issues also supports the learning process. The CLS has a number of tracking tools to assist with the monitoring of student activity. Thus, student services can be proactive and identify students at risk, minimising student attrition.
The Green MBA curriculum has now been fully developed, and a number of modules are being piloted along with the CLS. This pilot will conclude by the end of August and be fully evaluated by the end of September. The course will be formally offered for in the final quarter of 2010 exclusively to cohorts of corporate clients in the first instance. A quasi-government body in Singapore with a strong focus on the environment is partnering with the college in this regard as it already has a list of corporate clients identified as prospective enrolees. This has been done inexpensively, in a relatively short period of time, and in a mode that is scalable and highly profitable. Breaking free of the mainstream paradigm has proven to be an exciting and invigorating experience.
A Google search will reveal that there are several institutions around the world (mainly in North America) that offer ‘green’ MBA programs. Upon close inspection, however, none are truly committed to sustainability to the extent that all core and elective courses are built solidly around the principles of sustainable development. Furthermore, none are offered globally; none have been developed by a team of globally dispersed faculty; and none can claim any innovative delivery techniques along the lines described above.
01/09/2009 - 30/09/2010; complete