The Disappearing Classroom

What does a disappearing classroom look like?

The disappearing classroom has boundaries that are no longer defined by location or, in some cases, even walls, says Michael Desiderio, executive director of the Executive MBA Council. In the disappearing classroom, students learn by doing and the time between acquiring knowledge and using it is dwindling rapidly.

“Expectations for today’s business leaders are higher than ever, including the intense pressure to make profits appear in less time with fewer resources,” says Desiderio. “EMBA Programs are responding with innovations and new solutions, which are leading to a new phenomenon, the disappearing classroom.”

The disappearing classroom manifests itself in a number of ways, he says:

  • Formats of EMBA Programs continue to evolve. For example, students in programs with modular formats meet less regularly but for longer periods.
  • According to MBA Council research, the percentage of member programs that meet weekly has declined from 34 percent in 2008 to 26.7 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, the percentage of programs that meet less than once a month has risen from 10.3 percent in 2008 to 14.3 percent in 2012.
  • Technology is changing the landscape and supporting the development of new options for program delivery. Many EMBA Programs, especially global ones, rely on distance learning technology for some aspect of classes. Collaboration software helps bring teams with members from different parts of the world together, as does teleconferencing, web conferencing, or Skype. Virtual environments are offering new vehicles for learning. EMBA Programs also are increasing their use of electronic materials, helping lighten the load for students who travel.
  • Interactions are coming in new shapes and sizes. Thanks to technological advances, the innovations in format are resulting in broader and richer opportunities for business leaders to interact with one another, the heart of peer learning.
  • Classrooms aren’t necessarily the same classrooms anymore.
    “EMBA students are taking their education to the streets,” says Desiderio. “While EMBA Programs have always been designed for applied learning, programs are moving that notion to new levels as students participate in projects with real-life impacts, tackle problems within their own organization, explore the viability of entrepreneurial ventures, or consider solutions to global business issues.”

EMBA Programs will continue to add new models. “But the disappearing classroom,” says Desiderio, “one that is bounded less by geography, expanded by technology, based in immediate relevance and in the personal and professional transformations that strengthen the ability of business leaders to respond to rapidly changing times—is here to stay.”