Admissions Blog

US News: Look for MBA Courses on Artificial Intelligence

By 9th February 2018 February 20th, 2018 No Comments

Source: US News

By Ilana Kowarski
Feb. 8, 2018.

Business school courses on AI should acknowledge its limitations and distinguish facts from exaggerations, experts say.

Experts say MBA programs that excel in teaching students about AI provide lessons on statistics, analytics and machine learning. (Getty Images)

Many U.S. companies rely on artificial intelligence, using computer devices and software programs that mimic and rival the analytical abilities of human brains.

Artificial intelligence, commonly known as “AI,” is revolutionizing many industries – so much so that some business executives say it’s crucial for every MBA student to study this phenomenon.

“AI is transforming everything about the way the world does business, so any aspiring business leader will be better prepared by understanding where we’re headed,” Josh Tyler, executive vice president of engineering and design at Course Hero, an online learning platform, said via email.

Advocates of taking AI courses in business school point to the abundance of AI-based companies in Silicon Valley. Artificial intelligence powers the recommendation engines on Amazon and Netflix, and it is also the technology that makes ride-sharing apps and self-driving cars possible.

Here are five questions experts say MBA applicants should answer to determine the quality of a b-school’s AI curriculum.

1. How realistic are the AI courses? Simon Johnson, a professor of entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, says one way to gauge the sophistication of a b-school course is to check if it discusses instances when the potential of AI has been exaggerated.

Johnson, who teaches a course about the business of AI and robotics, says it’s important for MBA students to learn how to tell the difference between circumstances where AI can help a business and those where it won’t have a significant impact.

He also says it’s ideal when a course includes multiple guest speakers who are using AI in their businesses. These speakers may be able to provide more current information about AI than what’s available in written case studies.

“I call them live case studies or expert witnesses – people who come and don’t lecture to you, but they’re willing to engage and to be a living case study in your classroom,” he says. “That’s a lot of fun. It’s super interesting.”

2. Does the curriculum put AI in its historical context? Joyeeta Das, CEO and founder of the data science firm Gyana and an alumna of the University of Oxford‘s Said Business School, says she found a strategy and innovation course to be valuable for her career. The class discussed eras when new inventions have sparked massive economic changes.

Das says this course taught her how to recognize both compelling opportunities and speculative bubbles in the tech industry.

3. Does the curriculum address ethical dilemmas related to AI? Glenn M. Sulmasy, provost and chief academic officer at Bryant University, says some inventors of AI technologies have had “builder’s remorse” and regretted the impact their inventions have had on society.

He says it’s important for MBA students to learn about engineers who have expressed concern that the AI technology they created may be so addictive that it is psychologically harmful.

4. Are there courses on how to manage a company with disruptive technology? Randall K. Minas Jr., an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii—Manoa’s Shidler College of Business, says the goal of an MBA should not be to become a technical expert on AI but instead to learn how to run a company that uses AI.

Knowing the intricacies of AI technology is not usually necessary for an MBA student, especially one who doesn’t intend to work in Silicon Valley, Minas says, but it’s essential to learn how a business can use artificial intelligence to gain a competitive advantage.

5. Does the curriculum have courses about the basic elements of AI? Willem-Jan van Hoeve, an associate professor of operations research at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, says it’s important to find a b-school that offers coursework in statistics, analytics and basic AI design concepts like machine learning and optimization.

Ideally, he says, the b-school will allow MBA students to take cross-registered courses at its sister engineering and computer science programs and collaborate on business projects with students from those departments.

“If schools do not offer you the fundamentals, the methodological foundations of AI, you probably are not going to get access to the state of the art – and if you want to make a difference in your career, you probably want to know about the fundamentals,” he says.