Apple in Education Profiles

iPad is ‘revolutionising’ MBA and executive business education at IMD — one of the world’s top business schools

Content for IMD’s 400 programs a year is now preloaded and updated on attendees’ iPads. Key business data can be accessed online as required to support learning. Collaboration between attendees and with tutors is easy. As well as learning benefits, iPad helps IMD save CHF 500,000 a year on paper and print costs, funding ongoing enhancement of the IMD iPad app and generating overall efficiency savings for the organization.

“The iPad brings the outside world into the IMD classroom,” says Professor Bill Fischer. “Many minds are always better than a few — and the iPad gives us access to many minds without leaving the classroom. The quality and scope of interaction between attendees and Faculty is higher as a result. It leads to much more effective thinking and learning.”

Program participants are also excited about the iPad’s impact — on learning, and on their business lives. Many stress the benefits of having business feeds, video, and interactive course materials at their fingertips. On a practical level, course attendees are happy at not having to carry “a kilo of course content” around campus. Heleen Kuijten, a senior HR Manager at Schiphol Group, says that using iPad at an IMD executive course “totally inspired” her to become a digital immigrant.

IMD’s Chief Technical Officer Dr Iain Cooke says the cost case for iPad is very persuasive. Some IMD courses required more than 1,000 sheets of paper per student to be printed in the past. Preloading documents means IMD now uses only 4.49 million sheets of paper a year, compared with 9.75 million sheets before iPad was introduced. Taking into account reduced costs for color and monochrome printing, machine use and toner, as well as less costs for paper, IMD is now spending CHF 475,000 a year, compared with more than CHF 1M before introducing iPad. This easily outweighs the cost of the iPad hardware, allowing continuous investment in software to go beyond simply replacing the paper.

iPad is easy for executives

IMD is based in Lausanne, Switzerland and is ranked first in open programs worldwide by the Financial Times. Its MBA is also ranked first in one-year international programs by Forbes. Founded more than 60 years ago, it is now a “global meeting place” for business people, and aims to support the best in real-world learning. Each year, some 8,000 executives from more than 98 countries and every type of industry attend IMD programs, including intensive MBA and EMBA courses.

IMD has always been innovative in its learning culture and its facilities. Before iPad was launched, Iain Cooke had been looking for a creative digital solution to a growing management problem: supporting the resource needs of its many courses.

“Apart from the costs, the sheer logistics of providing course material on paper had become a nightmare for us,” he says. “It was very resource heavy, and we couldn’t provide the range of multimedia content that we wanted. We had looked at ebook readers and tablets, but nothing quite met our needs.

“From the start, the iPad appeared to offer great potential for managing and delivering rich content fast and efficiently. What really clinched it for us was our confidence that executives would find it easy to use, and that its networking capability, screen quality, and long battery life would really improve the learning experience.”

IMD put iPad to the test during its prestigious and demanding ‘Orchestrating Winning Performance’ (OWP) program for corporate executives. 500 devices were purchased just weeks after iPad was announced in Europe.

Shift in teaching methods

A unique app was developed with Sen:te, a third-party developer, so IMD could efficiently load its presentations, case studies, related reading, and course information — including session locations with campus maps — all in a personalized format. IMD also provided attendees with dedicated email accounts to collaborate easily with each other in course sessions and afterwards, using a preloaded address book. The app enabled them to store notes of exchanges with other attendees against their contact details.

The iPads were set up to allow the program coordinator to stay in touch with participants, and were used throughout the OWP program. At the end, participants returned the iPad, and could retrieve all their related documents and information from a web portal.

“The feedback from IMD Faculty staff and participants was overwhelmingly positive,” says Professor Bettina Büchel, Director of the OWP program. “They found that the iPad enhanced the focus on course work. We are convinced that this device, thin enough to fit into a manila envelope and lighter than a notebook, will revolutionize education.”

Many of IMD’s 60 Faculty members now use iPad in their own programs — including the year-long MBA and EMBA, as well as in short courses and seminars. The IMD app has undergone significant enhancement to extend its value to students on all programs. “The iPad is much more than a solution to a tangible problem of how to provide course content efficiently,” says Iain Cooke. “It represents a serious shift in teaching methodologies.”

Professor Fischer provides an example of this shift. He describes how attendees on one of his courses began tweeting about a topic under discussion. That tweet was picked up by a Forbes magazine blogger. What had begun in an IMD classroom debate was then aired across the global Internet. “So the iPad didn’t just bring the wider world into IMD,” says Professor Fischer. “It made the classroom portable, and took it across the world.”

Executives become digital immigrants

iPad has also played an important role in converting a generation of high-flying digital immigrants. Program tutors report that executives are using iPad as an integrated tool to support their learning, with the IMD app as the central tool. MBA students use iPad to research business issues raised in class, and use various apps to organize files, take notes, and present their findings using Apple’s Keynote app.

Attendees at IMD programs average about 43 years of age — older than in many business schools, Iain Cooke says. “They are certainly not digital natives. However, many say they use the iPad experience to get a serious insight into how powerful digital tools and networking can be in their executive roles. A number of people have left here saying ‘I’ve understood for the first time why this technology is so important’.”

IMD is itself a competitive organization, and has to work hard to maintain its global leadership position. It is part of Apple’s iOS Developer University Program (iDUP), and has created an app for the App Store loaded with thought-leading articles and videos on the latest management issues.

“The full potential of the iPad in business learning is nearly limitless,” says Iain Cooke. “We are still in the discovery phase. Business schools need to be at the forefront of innovation. Smart use of the iPad is certainly one way to achieve this.”

Products they use


This revolutionary mobile device introduces a whole new way of teaching and learning. Learn more about iPad

See Educational Apps

Apps for Learning

View in iTunes

iTunes U app

Download now

More education profiles.