Closing the Gap in Business Education

Business education programs have been proactively addressing the educational divide, especially for non-business undergraduates or majors aspiring to pursue graduate business programs. Additionally, these programs are making concerted efforts to accommodate individuals who have been distant from higher education for extended periods, such as those enrolling in executive business degree programs. Notably, many students pursuing an MBA post their undergraduate degree come from non-business backgrounds. This trend is substantiated by a Graduate Management Admission Council survey, which revealed that over half of the applicants to MBA programs are non-business majors. This comprehensive study, which gathered insights from over 11,000 prospective business school students, was conducted in 2016. In fact, highlighting this trend, Stanford GSB’s 2024 MBA class comprised only 19% of students with undergraduate business degrees, underscoring the diversity of academic backgrounds in business education (Stanford GSB, 2023).

Serving Non-Business Majors

The widespread interest in graduate business degrees among learners from diverse educational backgrounds is logical, given the versatility of Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees. Regarded as one of the most adaptable graduate degrees, an MBA equips students for various professional paths. Regardless of industry, an MBA prepares students to achieve their entrepreneurial dreams, change careers, or move into leadership positions. Furthermore, the diversity of academic backgrounds among MBA students enriches the learning environment within these graduate programs and allows the students to look at a business-related topic from a variety of perspectives and areas of expertise.

While there is value added for both business graduate programs and learners from a non-business background, challenges arise due to limited foundational business knowledge among these non-business majors. The lack of foundational knowledge in business core subjects is what is considered a gap in business education.

gap in business education

Higher education institutions worldwide have adopted various strategies to address this issue. One common approach involves mandating additional core classes in finance, marketing, economics, and ethics for students lacking a business background or those who score low on specific assessments. However, this requirement can significantly increase both the cost and duration of the degree program, adding an extra layer of consideration for prospective students.

Academic Leveling

Another method that institutions use to close the gap in business education is Academic Leveling. Academic Leveling provides learners with short and modular online content covering the core subjects common within a business undergraduate program. The modular nature of the content ensures that schools can pick the topics that are important to their graduate program while also keeping content broken into smaller chunks that are more digestible for learners.

An additional advantage of Academic Leveling is its online, self-guided format, which offers students the flexibility to complete the coursework according to their own schedule. This can be done prior to admission, as part of an introductory course, or alongside other program-specific coursework. Such flexibility not only facilitates a smoother transition for students into graduate business studies but also accommodates their varying backgrounds and learning paces, enhancing the overall effectiveness and accessibility of business education.

The distinctive feature of Academic Leveling is its pre-test and post-test structure that accompanies each module, playing a crucial role in building foundational business knowledge among learners. This approach begins with a pre-test, which assesses the learner’s existing knowledge in a specific subject area. If the learner scores above a predetermined threshold set by the institution, they can bypass the module, recognizing their proficiency in that topic.

However, if the learner’s pre-test score falls below the required level, they proceed to engage with the module’s instructional content. This phase, which typically spans approximately 5 hours, is designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.

Upon completing the instructional content, learners then take a post-test. This final assessment measures the knowledge they’ve gained through the module and ensures they have reached the knowledge level required by their program. This pre-test and post-test mechanism not only tailors the learning experience to individual needs but also ensures that all students, regardless of their starting point, achieve a consistent level of understanding of key business concepts before progressing in their graduate studies.

Peregrine offers a range of modules catering to Academic Leveling. Within their offerings, 16 modules are specifically designed to cover areas commonly included in an undergraduate business degree. Available modules include:

Improving Retained Knowledge in Business Education

The field of education has grown considerably over the last century. Educators have discovered that learners crave a learning environment that keeps their brains engaged. Learners expect to have access to various resources, including video, audio, text, and activities. Also, allowing learners to test their knowledge regularly reinforces essential concepts and helps them cross the knowing/learning gap.

Moreover, learners benefit from well-structured content that effectively integrates various types of multimedia and builds on previously acquired knowledge. This scaffolding approach in content delivery ensures a coherent learning journey where each new concept is anchored to an existing foundation of understanding. As educators, it’s our responsibility to facilitate this journey, guiding learners through the material in a way that optimizes their learning experience.

Peregrine considered these best practices when developing each Academic Leveling Module. Due to this foresight, the modules provided have had a significant impact on retained knowledge. This was evident in a recent study conducted by Peregrine, which analyzed data from 17 client schools over a period of six years. The study revealed that learners who completed Peregrine’s Academic Leveling Modules scored higher in knowledge-based, summative assessments across all topic areas at the end of their programs. The improvement varied across subjects, with a notable increase in scores, ranging from a 3.29% rise in Marketing to a substantial 14.61% in Quantitative Research Techniques and Statistics. This data underscores the effectiveness of Peregrine’s approach in enhancing academic outcomes and preparing students for success in their respective fields.

Percentage change between the Outbound Exam Scores of Master’s Degree Learners Who Completed the Module-based Leveling Program at the Start of their Master’s Degree and those Learners Who did not Complete the Module-based Leveling Program.

The evidence suggests that learners who engage in Academic Leveling Modules at the outset of their master’s degree program tend to learn and retain more knowledge compared to those who do not undergo a similar preparatory program. This conclusion is drawn from the observed outcomes in the study conducted by Peregrine along with our partner institutions.

The structured approach of Academic Leveling, which often includes a blend of multimedia content, regular assessments, and a progressive build-up of concepts, appears to effectively bridge the initial knowledge gap for students. This foundational preparation not only equips students with the necessary background in key subject areas but also enhances their ability to grasp more advanced concepts as they progress through their master’s degree program.

To learn more about Academic Leveling as a cost-effective and high-quality method for closing gaps in business education register for our upcoming webinar here

To learn more about the various implementation models of Academic Leveling, read case studies from schools that have used these modules or examine the data in more detail — download the abbreviated version of the whitepaper. This document will provide comprehensive insights into the effectiveness of Academic Leveling Modules, showcasing real-world applications and outcomes.

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