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MBA students at UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, meet in virtual classroom
03 September 2002

By Ute Frey, Haas School of Business

Berkeley - MBA students at three of the world's leading graduate schools of business - the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business, the University of Michigan Business School, and the Darden School at the University of Virginia - will share a virtual classroom this year, using full-motion video and Internet technology.

Each school will offer one course to MBA students at all three institutions. This partnership began in the 2000-01 academic year, when the three schools for the first time provided their students with this opportunity to sample one course at one of the other schools.

Building upon the business model of strategic alliances that bring together companies with complementary strengths, each school will offer cutting-edge course material in a specific area of expertise to students from all three schools. Class preparation materials and research will be distributed over the Internet, and students will communicate during class with each other and with faculty via videoconference and Internet chat rooms.

"These joint courses may be a window into the future of management education," said Andrew Shogan, associate dean of instruction at the Haas School, "a future in which schools regularly team or co-brand to offer their best courses to students and executives who are located at multiple sites around the world and who need and want such training now."

The Darden School's class, on consulting, will begin on Sept. 9 and include 20 students each from Darden, Michigan and Haas. Professor Jeanne M. Liedtka will teach the course, structuring it to closely reflect marketplace skills sets.

"Consultants today need to be able to work in diverse teams, both on site and virtual," Liedtka said. "At the same time, consulting firms need to operate seamlessly from multiple locations. We are going to replicate these requirements by organizing teams at each site and have those teams work on a project that will be presented to their colleagues at the other schools via video-conference. We also will organize teams with participants from all three locations, which will utilize the Web to work together and make their presentations from three separate sites."

Liedtka pointed out that this innovative approach fits two of the key objectives of Darden's dean, Robert S. Harris, who has emphasized the creative use of technology to enhance the learning process. Harris also has stressed the value of management education programs that are close to business, including its operational requirements.

In the spring, Haas School assistant professor Terry Odean will offer a course in Behavioral Finance. As a Haas School PhD graduate in 1997, Odean started making national news when he proved that investors make decisions based on their feelings about a stock, rather than through any sort of rational thought process. This spring, his students will study common biases and aids in people's decision-making process and their relevance for today's managers. A substantial portion of the course will be devoted to how systematic departures from rationality affect financial markets and the welfare of investors.

The University of Michigan will determine this fall which course it will offer to the three partner schools in fall 2003.

"This collaboration is very exciting," said Graham Mercer, assistant dean of strategic planning and special projects at the U-M business school. "We believe that technology like this will play an important role in the future of business education. We're looking to develop a high-profile course that is unique to Michigan and one that will complement the strengths of our partner schools."

This is the second time that the three business schools have partnered to share their teaching resources and to make them available to their MBA students. In 2000, the schools offered courses covering different aspects of e-business. Darden led cases in e-business innovations, Haas taught a course on financial issues in the Internet sector, and Michigan offered a course on strategically applying Internet technologies.