Article Sponsored by University of Birmingham
Online education for business executives has never been more popular or more credible across a wide range of industries.
While, in the past, online courses were not considered to be as prestigious as a traditional, in-person business school education, today’s executives—and their prospective employers—are seeing things differently. Now, an MBA student does not need to be bound to a single location or even the life of a full-time student to reap the benefits of higher education. What’s more, an online MBA student now has a global network at her fingertips more than ever before as her classroom could include like-minded colleagues from around the world.
A dynamic educational experience online could be a game-changer for the MBA crowd. In 2014, experts told Bloomberg.com that the emerging preference for online MBA learning could replace half of the business schools in the US by 2020. But the key to attracting great students and building competitive graduates is more nuanced than simply live-streaming lectures—a point that is well understood by the UK’s University of Birmingham.
“This is not a campus-based course that we’ve just put online; we’ve built this from the ground up, taking on board the current online environment and latest technology that we have available,” says Ian Myatt, director of educational enterprise at the University of Birmingham. “There are many ways in which you can collaborate with each other online that are actually more efficient and effective than in a face-to-face environment.”
Not only are employers taking notice of the growing number of online educated MBA students but also, even the finest universities are angling to reach this emerging market. At the University of Birmingham, students can now pursue an Online MBA in two and a half years. The course offers interaction with top academics in their respective fields as well as more personal interactions with tutors via phone, email, Skype or through live lectures broadcast across the web.
“Studying online also ensures a significant, internationally composed classroom together, which complements the programme as well,” says Helena Feibert, a current student studying the Online MSc International Business at the University of Birmingham. “It adds substance and inspiration from very different people from very different cultures and I find that enriching to the class room sessions, the discussions, and network.”
To Feibert’s point, the live, online lectures do not simply play a talking head recounting the day’s course of study. Instead, these lectures enable the cohort to see each other and interact throughout the discussion. Students can also communicate and collaborate in real time through chat sessions and discussion boards.
“An Online MBA provides you with the thrilling experience of connecting globally through your computer,” says Ceridwen Scerri, a current online student at Birmingham. “During my first online session, I was simply amazed as the class went live with students from America, Australia, Africa and Asia. And with each module, experts join the course. So far, I’ve had lecturers from New Zealand, Malaysia, Israel and the UK. I don’t think that this can be experienced on-campus, to the same extent.”
Many MBA students from traditional, in-person programs give credit to their cohort experience as being the most influential of their education. That’s why new, online programs are tailoring the learning environment to replicate this shared educational experience. At the University of Birmingham, some learning modules bring together students by region to collaborate on assignments.
This focus on collaborative communication is a key part of what makes this new breed of online MBA particularly appealing to students today.
“Our students are not going to be lonely long-distance learners. They’re going to be actively working with faculty and they’ll be able to talk to them live,” says Mike Shulver, director of online content for the Birmingham Online MBA. “Our courses are alive and interactive. We have six modules a year, run over eight weeks. In every one of those eight-week modules there are four ‘Connect’ sessions; live interactive sessions that run on Saturdays and are two hours 15 minutes long, with a break halfway. In those, students have a space where they can present and discuss case study exercises, and interact with and challenge their tutors.”
With an increasingly connected global economy, graduates of these online MBA programs will have an additional set of skills to showcase to prospective employers: their ability to communicate and problem solve with remote colleagues stationed around the globe.