Research & Innovation

MaCuDE: Collaborating on the Curriculum of Tomorrow

Stevens leads over 100 business schools from around the world in creating a management curriculum for the digital era.

Are business students prepared to navigate the sweeping changes brought on by digital transformation? This is the question driving business schools to modernize their curricula, responding to disruptions caused by technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality, and blockchain.

These technologies are radically transforming areas of cognitive and physical work, demanding a new skill set of skills for business professionals. 

“The business education as we know it is in major transition,” said Gregory Prastacos, dean of the School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology. “The fundamental language of business — accounting, strategy, marketing, finance — is still very important to how work gets done, but technology is now at the core. This is why MaCuDE is timely and important."

The concept of MaCuDE: Management Curriculum for the Digital Era, originated within AACSB’s Digital Transformation Affinity Group (DTAG), which Prastacos co-chairs. “I remember when I presented my proposal for undertaking a project to revise the management curriculum for the digital era, and asked if anybody would be interested to join, almost everybody in the packed room raised their hand” he says.

The MaCuDE initiative has attracted significant interest from academia and industry. Faculty from over 100 business schools around the world, grouped in nine task forces, which segment MaCuDE’s research into topics ranging from traditional disciplines, like accounting and finance to modern digital themes, including data analytics and the future of work. The initiative is funded by PwC and sponsored by AACSB International.

MaCuDE recently published a comprehensive report assessing the current state of digital themes in business school curricula and the innovations that business schools have been undertaking to address the challenges and opportunities of the digital age. As a synthesis of the task forces’ work in Phase 1, MaCuDE reported important findings on what the digital era demands and what business schools have yet to deliver.

Key Findings

The first important finding is that business schools around the world have been investing significantly in upgrading their curricula. However, the degree of emphasis on the digital issues varies per discipline. For example, the areas of marketing, finance and operations seem to lead in terms of innovations developed, whereas other areas, such as organizational behavior or strategy seem to lag. The innovations include new coursework, new certificate or degree programs, and plenty of executive education offerings.

There are five overriding themes around which business schools have been investing in transforming their curricula. These themes are: a) data analytics and machine learning, b) programming, c) algorithms and AI, d) emerging digital technologies, and e) managing digital organizations. Most schools have by now incorporated an analytics course in their core MBA program, and many schools include Python or R either as part of the curriculum, or as a lab, or as a prerequisite to the courses. Courses or programs around algorithms and AI, or emerging technologies (such as blockchain) are still not common.

Meta skills are equally if not more important in the digital age than before, but not much has been developed in terms of content or experiential activities addressing specifically the needs of the digital era. The key meta skills identified in the report include effective communication, leadership, critical thinking and innovation, agile mindset, empathy and intercultural skills, ethical behavior, appreciation for privacy and cybersecurity. “Competition is no longer confined to strict industry boundaries. A new style of leadership is emerging where digital savviness is essential. New ethical issues arise, and decision-makers face unprecedented dilemmas.”

A critical new topic is how to manage digital organizations. Artificial intelligence and big data have become foundational for corporations and start-ups alike, across all industries. Digital organizations face a number of challenges, including gig economy and labor issue, remote work environment, new competitive dynamics in the market, and more. In addition, digital organizations must prioritize ethics, privacy and cybersecurity. According to MaCuDE’s report, these cross-cutting concerns, including those of cybersecurity, privacy and ethics are “scarcely represented in most university curricula.”

The report also outlines a number of “development pathways”, including the need for new content (e.g., case studies) that reflect the digital environment, the need to manage the digital savviness gap between a school’s faculty, the need to integrate modern technologies into coursework and discuss the digital themes of ethics and cybersecurity, and more.

Next Steps Toward a New Era 

This is an ongoing initiative, expected to conclude in mid-2023. Now that Phase 1 is complete, MaCuDE is focusing on providing formal suggestions for the future of management education.

The mission of Phase 2 is to “identify knowledge and skill requirements as expressed by management role.” To address this issue, task forces have surveyed industry leaders and are in the process of determining what are the new skills needed for the digital era, and how curricula could be developed to address these market needs. In the final phase, MaCuDE will combine insights from the first two phases to deliver “recommendations for curricular evolution.”

Throughout each phase, the School of Business at Stevens is providing direction to ensure fruitful research and effective collaboration, spanning the borders of nations, industries and academic disciplines.