Haas Puts Executive MBA Program on the iPad

Getting senior executives to trade in their hardbound textbooks for digital copies is a challenge. But University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has had 68 of them doing just that as part of a pilot program using a learning platform on school-issued iPads this fall.

Students in the Berkeley MBA for Executives program are testing a learning platform by EmpoweredU, which aims to consolidate school materials in one source on an iPad. Essentially, the platform is an app via which students can find pretty much all they need to complete their coursework, including syllabi, readings, access to their Facebook groups and teams, and school and faculty information.

Reading textbooks on iPads was the issue that caused the most discussion during this pilot phase, says Ashish Joshi, a student in the MBA for Executives’ Class of 2014 and a senior director of product management at Oracle. Haas’ solution was to give students both hardbound books and digital versions on their iPads.

While some students were reluctant to change when presented with the app,  they eventually saw the value and came around, adds Joshi. Since Joshi and his classmates have to travel often for their jobs, they find it convenient to carry an iPad, as opposed to multiple books, says Joshi, though this wasn’t the only plus.

“The biggest benefit is getting one view of all our tasks,” he says.

Even though students and faculty are generally pleased with the new platform and have already committed to using it again next term, faculty members were initially resistant because the changeover to the new platform happened after the start of the program, says Jon Kaplan, executive director of MBA programs for working professionals at Haas. The new platform replaces bSpace, a learning management system used by Haas that was not accessible with the iPad.

The iPads weren’t cheap. Kaplan says the school spent about $34,000 on the devices. Kaplan said he does not know how much the school is paying EmpoweredU.

Haas plans to use this platform for the executive program for the foreseeable future and has no immediate plans to roll it out to other MBA programs. As part of its effort to aggressively integrate technology into its programs, Kaplan says, Haas has also tapped to provide reader and case packets through the EmpoweredU platform and e-book provider Inkling to offer textbooks on the tablets.

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( Corrects reference to when Haas began using the EmpoweredU platform in the sixth paragraph. )
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