Engaging students online is twice the challenge as it is on campus, according to new research from AMBA & BGA in association with Cengage

These results are just some of the key findings from a new report from AMBA & BGA, in association with Cengage, entitled:

Connected: student engagement and community building at business schools.

This report was based on an online quantitative survey of senior business school leaders from AMBA & BGA accredited business schools. In total, 155 business school decision-makers participated.

Click here to read the full report.

Creating a sense of community

  • 69 per cent of business school leaders rate the strength of their school’s community as being either ‘strong’ or ‘very strong’
  • 82 per cent of leaders believe that creating a strong sense of community is easier when students are on campus than when they are online
  • 70 per cent of leaders said that creating an inclusive environment is easier when students are on campus than when they are online
  • 80 per cent of respondents cite the need to ensure all students interact and engage when working online as a key challenge in fostering an inclusive environment at their business school

Promoting interaction and engagement

  • 88 per cent of leaders rate student engagement with learning material as being either ‘high’ or ‘very high’ when students were on campus. The equivalent figure when rating engagement among students working online is just 44 per cent
  • Over half of respondents say that logins are a key way in which they track interaction and engagement online

Where are the main changes to new ways of working?

  • 80 per cent of business school leaders say their business school has implemented hybrid learning opportunities
  • 55 per cent of leaders say their school has invested in employing learning design or technology enhanced learning experts
  • 53 per cent say their school has implemented a virtual learning environment (VLE) or learning management system (LMS)
  • 73 per cent rate their business school’s online learning offering as being either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’
  • The biggest concern over students working online is that they might struggle with feelings of isolation, cited by 63 per cent of respondents
  • The biggest concerns over students working on campus are that they might struggle with time management (cited by 58 per cent) and keeping to deadlines (cited by 31 per cent)

How have campus approaches changed in response to the pandemic?

  • Three-quarters of respondents say that the pandemic has changed the way that they use their business school campus
  • Campuses still hold sway over online initiatives in terms of investment – 33 per cent of business school leaders say that the majority of their funds will be allocated to on-campus initiatives in the next five years while 52 per cent say that funding will be split equally between campus and online initiatives. Just 14 per cent say the majority of the funds will be allocated to online initiatives

What are schools looking for in their work with external organisations?

  • 66 per cent of responding leaders say that their business school has worked with external organisations to supply learning resources to students
  • Academic reputation and calibre of content are what respondents are looking for most when working with external organisations – 97 per cent say these factors are either ‘important’ or ‘very important’

Laura Lichtensteiger, Head of Marketing, Cengage EMEA, said of the results, “With the changing teaching and learning settings there are also opportunities to create more interactive, accessible and personalised learning experiences for students. We know that students expect to have choice and flexibility in how they learn and this research shows that this is an area of investment for business school leaders. However, it is important to ensure that students fully engage with the course – however it is taught – respondents felt that driving engagement with materials when taught online was a challenge to address. Only 37 per cent felt that student engagement was high with learning materials online.

“What’s clear from this research, is the commitment of business school senior leaders to provide a stand-out student experience that combines innovative teaching, student support and robust academic content – with 97% of respondents rating academic reputation and calibre of content important when working with external organisations like Cengage. The survey reveals many exciting developments, as well as a number of challenges and opportunities to explore, and we hope that the results can help to shape MBA education in the years ahead.”

Ellen Buchan, Insight, Content & PR Manager, AMBA & BGA, also said, “The results show that most business school leaders are confident in their school’s ability to work online – 73 per cent of leaders rate their online offering as being either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. However, key concerns remain. For example, 63 per cent of leaders believe their students are struggling with feelings of isolation when working online and a majority believe student engagement is higher when working on campus (88 per cent rate student engagement as very high or high on campus compatred to just 44 per cent when online).

For more information or interviews, please contact:

  • Ellen Buchan, Insight, Content & PR Manager, AMBA & BGA e.buchan@associationofmbas.com


Between November 2022 and February 2023, AMBA & BGA circulated an online questionnaire on the topic of creating communities in business schools to the leaders of their institutions. A total of 155 business school decision-makers participated in this quantitative survey.

The terms ‘participants’, ‘survey respondents’, ‘business school leaders’, and ‘leaders’ are used interchangeably when describing the research sample.

Of those surveyed, 36 per cent represent business schools in Europe (excluding the UK); 17 per cent represent schools in Latin America; 15 per cent represent schools in the UK; 13 per cent represent schools in Africa; six per cent represent schools in Asia and the Middle East (excluding India and China); five per cent represent schools in North America and the Caribbean; four per cent represent schools in China; three per cent represent schools in India; and one per cent represent schools in Oceania.

In terms of their role, 39 per cent of respondents classify themselves as deans and directors at business schools; 10 per cent are management academics; eight per cent work in designing or delivering business school programmes; eight per cent work with management students and graduates (for example, as careers and alumni staff); eight per cent work in another role within a business school; three per cent work in a technology enhanced learning team to support business schools; and 25 per cent work within another capacity at a business school.

Three-quarters of those surveyed (75 per cent) say they work at a business school that offers the blended/hybrid mode of learning that combines in-person instruction and online instruction; 18 per cent say their school has only in-person instruction; four per cent say their school offers distance-enhanced learning which primarily offers online instruction enhanced by some in-person events; and three per cent say their school offers distance/fully virtual learning that is offered completely online with no in-person learning.

About AMBA & BGA

Spearheading excellence and trailblazing innovation, for more than 50 years the Association of MBAs (AMBA) has been the impartial authority on post-graduate management education. AMBA established that vision in 1967 and, in a volatile, uncertain world, it’s as relevant today as it was then. We are committed to raising the profile and quality standards of business education internationally, for the benefit of business schools, students and alumni, employers, communities and society.

  • Our accreditation service is the global standard for all MBA, DBA and master’s degrees, currently accrediting programmes from the top 2% of business schools in more than 75 countries.
  • Our Research and Insight Centre produces a rich body of reports exploring global trends in the business education sector. This drives our global thought leadership and public affairs campaigns.
  • We are the only professional membership association that connects MBA students and graduates, accredited business schools and MBA employers throughout the world.
  • Through our members, AMBA is building an international force for good, championing best practice, responsible management and sustainability. Membership to AMBA means being part of an international community of peers with access to business strategy thought leadership, career advice and knowledge, and an MBA jobs portal.
  • Our multi-award-winning events offer networking opportunities online and in person across all continents in association with international corporate partners and thought leaders exclusively for our members and accredited business schools.

The Business Graduates Association (BGA) is an international membership and accreditation body of world-leading and high-potential business schools that share a commitment for responsible management practices and lifelong learning, and that are looking to provide a positive impact on their students, communities and the economy as a whole. We offer:

  • Quality assurance services to business schools and similar institutions, aimed at continuous improvement and positive impact to increase a business school’s credibility and influence.
  • Consultation and mentorship services to business schools to improve their marketing and admissions, programme design, alumni interaction, teaching methods, and career development services.
  • Award-winning international events for business school professionals, focused on continuous learning.
  • Student and graduate membership, which includes social networking events worldwide, professional development tools, a Career Development Centre, and much more.
  • Leading and award-winning content on responsible management, professional and personal growth, and influence via the Business Impact content hub.


About Cengage

Cengage is a global education and technology company built for learners, with products that create learning experiences and build confidence and momentum towards the future students want. Cengage has a single belief – that every student has the potential to be unstoppable –and designs tools that keep them moving towards their goals.

With quality content available across a wide range of subject areas in MBA education, from accounting, finance and economics to leadership, organisational development and entrepreneurship, Cengage provides a full range of learning materials for your MBA courses.

Online learning platforms and mobile access enable teaching and learning anytime and anywhere, supporting your programmes, whether these are delivered full time or part time, through classroom, online or blended learning formats.

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