With the pandemic pushing much of the work and learning online, an increasing number of professionals are opting for online MBAs instead of face-to-face courses. Although actually studying an MBA is a very serious thing, and in whatever format, it still requires effort and time dedication. Reason why students have to adapt to new work arrangements and managerial responsibilities. So, faced with this reality (let’s say difficulties), the flexibility shown by the various Business School programs is the key.
Course director Pietro Micheli, who is the “Professor of Business Performance and Innovation at Warwick Business School,” says that most students are professionals in the middle of their career, trying to balance their business education with jobs and family lives.
According to statistics from this school, on average 30 to 40 per cent will take a break from the course, while around 10 per cent will drop out or choose to pursue a lower level diploma or degree.
What Micheli says is interesting and is still a response to a market of uncertainty in general, on which online MBAs are predestined to provide some stability, which is why he affirms that “life throws things at you and you may lose your job, you might get promoted, you might have a child. If you have problems, let us know and we will try to solve them.” Without a doubt, all the best predisposition towards the solution of the particular circumstances of the candidate, that is, maximum flexibility.
Let’s go to another interesting case, such as the “Australian Graduate School of Management”, for example, which allows students to take between two and six years to complete their MBAX program.
The influence of Covid on online studies
While nowadays it is really a function of the fact that people have reclaimed their time and space and are used to being in this digital world at work, it ends up being a reality that an online MBA is a natural extension of this new time. But we must not forget that, although this is so, the only positive thing that the pandemic has left us is that it has accelerated this type of process in which people have been forced to adapt to new work realities. And of course, in the case of online MBAs, it has made things much easier.
The Warrington Online MBA has an asynchronous structure that allows students to work on content at the time and pace of their choosing. But, for those who need more intervention and face-to-face catching up, this may not be suitable.
Students support each other
One way students stay focused is by supporting one another, through group work, networking, and social media like WhatsApp and Slack. In addition, it is proven that the interaction between students and professors online is much more intense and rich than in the face-to-face MBA. You have to try harder to get to know your classmates.
A key attraction of traditional MBAs for many professionals is the networking opportunities they provide with peers and alumni. But this experience may require more effort to replicate online.
Benefit of teaching on a global scale
Online MBAs allow you to experience the benefits of world-class teaching from anywhere in the world. Some part-time online MBAs, which can be studied over a period of 2 years and 9 months, are designed for professionals with a minimum of three years of managerial experience who want to progress to more senior and leadership roles in business. We have seen that the experience required for this type of flexible course can range from 2 to 5 years.
Confident leaders must think and act strategically, skillfully, and responsibly. This is a powerful reason why the skills to study and that are a fundamental part of any online MBA program, are the skills that must be part of the heart of any self-respecting program, which are also those contents that are most in demand than ever, especially by recruiters of new managers and middle managers. And even, for base personnel who have growth aspirations, and apart from the new knowledge acquired, especially what they learned in terms of soft skills in leadership, it will give them certain advantages to boost their career, both within the company like looking for another job. Better ability of the candidate to compete in the job market.
And these MBA contents that seek to improve the student’s professional potential are highly demanded and especially sought after by those who want to take an MBA. Because you know it gives them a clear focus on the role of the strategic leader and helps you move forward with confidence. To achieve this, MBAs are generally based on the following areas that are essential for professional growth and development:
– Training in strategic leadership.
– Strengthen all aspects of professional development.
– Keep students in a category of global and interconnected.
If in turn the online program is giving you the opportunity to continue working or make arrangements to adapt to other responsibilities while you develop your skills (by experiencing the training of an online MBA) without a doubt, despite the effort, you will be making progress in your career. And it is known for a fact that this effort and dedication will be rewarded sooner or later.
Hence, the greater flexibility of Business Schools becomes fundamental when choosing programs and deciding which of the institutions that offer an online MBA, is finally decided.
Structure of the online MBA program
By incorporating the topics of strategy and leadership, the new potential directors and middle managers of the organizations, are being prepared for the new global challenges that lie ahead. And precisely, given its flexibility, an online MBA makes it easier for the student to learn new ways of thinking and will verify progress in terms of the development of their personal and leadership abilities.
This is achieved both through case studies and through consultancy-style projects with external organizations to broaden the knowledge of the participants on alternative business models and approaches.
Many programs that are oriented in the online MBA to professional development, are part of the basic structure of curricular content, because they are specifically designed to help improve interpersonal and leadership skills.
A paradigmatic case
Of the different situations that we have found in our search for flexibility to alleviate the pressure of the students, we have found the case of an emergency medical professional who has been developing this activity for the last 30 years, and that she confessed to an important media of the United Kingdom who had never before found the right time to study an MBA, despite always having been eager to do so.
“I was looking to broaden my horizons,” she says. But the demands of her job meant that none of the programs available when she first explored the idea a couple of decades ago fit the bill. She had an understanding of what the effort of adding graduate school to her busy life meant, through the people she knew who had already done it, and who had to struggle excessively to meet the demands of the courses, the travel and expenses. But finally, for her, the arrival of online MBAs opened up new possibilities, enrolling in the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts. Which leads her to state that “being able to study online was an important factor in the decision, since as an ER doctor, you don’t work from 9 to 5, so I could fit it into my schedule in small parts.”
That built-in flexibility, with video conferencing, self-study and virtual networking, is a key part of the appeal of online MBAs. However, they are still not an easy option, as many students have to adapt their courses to work and family. The coronavirus pandemic has added to the pressure, though schools are doing what they can to help.
Adapt virtual content
Another case we have seen is when a student was in the final months of his two-year MBA at the University of Florida Warrington School of Business when the pandemic hit.
While online lectures had a fairly long format before the pandemic, the school has started to offer shorter and more digestible videos, especially useful for students who have to take care of children, such as mothers who do not have no other option but to choose online MBA.
The biggest change that this student points out occurred in her life as a student, it was the suspension of face-to-face sessions. “How do you build a relationship when everything is virtual?” One thing that helped, she says, was a messaging tool called Chatter, which seemed more informal than email. The school’s willingness to be flexible with deadlines was also welcomed.
Act under pressure
Studying under pressure when Covid-19 burst into our lives, disrupting everything established both in the labor market and in postgraduate studies, determined that the flexibility that Business Schools had was essential. And the feelings of the students in the middle of the pandemic were that the only way was in everything that the online MBA offered.
In the toughest semester of the pandemic, some schools encouraged students to come forward if they were struggling to cope and offered the option of marking classes “pass” or “fail” instead of grading them. It was as if a pressure valve had been released, and thanks to this decision, it made it easier for many students to relax a bit.
Other students who are currently pursuing online MBAs say that communicating with their fellow students through WhatsApp and catching up with Zoom is an invaluable support. That everyone is aware that they are in the same boat, because they share work and responsibilities with studies, therefore, their lives require them to have a certain flexibility from the schools. And many know that since they have planned two or more years of their lives to train for an MBA thanks to these facilities provided by the schools, despite the effort they will achieve a great benefit for their professional careers. The question is to choose the online MBA program that best suits the needs of the student.
In a case of another student, she pointed out that although each week is different, “her goal is to study for two hours each night, and the program’s emphasis on self-study has worked well, although for subjects less familiar to her, such as accounting and finances, I would have preferred more teaching time.” Regarding this preference, she says it this way: “I wanted someone to sit down and talk to me as if I were a three-year-old and guide me step by step, but, of course, it is independent learning, right?”
Her situation was very clear in terms of work effort and how to distribute her study time. She had been working for eight years at McDonald’s and made the decision to study an online MBA for two reasons: to learn more about business, and the second reason, because she knew that his boss was planning to retire.
But, she claims that sometimes she feels the pressure that work inevitably puts on her. There are weeks that are worse and left her exhausted. But what keeps her going is knowing that this is two years of her life and that it will be of great benefit to her personal growth and career development.
Jorge Lengler, director of the online MBA program at Durham, says he has noticed some students struggling to handle the demands of the course along with the pressures of their work and home lives during the pandemic. “People are tired, but I also think they are extremely resilient,” he says. “We are learning; we have to learn.”
Sense of community
Without the opportunity for students to meet in person, schools are under more pressure to make virtual sessions engaging and encourage interaction between classmates.
Many decisions to start an online MBA are determined when the student realizes that the face-to-face form of the course is not possible at this time in his life. His circumstances are what rule. But there are also many who, despite having resigned the training of an on-site MBA, end up experiencing a relief because they get to acquire more personal commitment with the professors than ever, in previous on-site courses.
The flexibility of schools to ease the pressure is seen when certain classes are proposed to bring students together, for example to focus on career planning and personal brand building. This implies meetings where they have coffees or snacks, so you enjoy an important social part, even when the most time is online.
Other students say that careful management of their personal time is vital, so having time to recharge is highly valued. Hence, the flexibility of the school so that students can organize their study time is essential. Even so that they can enjoy inactivity.
For students who are in jobs with significant responsibilities, a typical day goes by with about ten virtual meetings before ending at 5 p.m. It is time then to free yourself, go for a walk and later catch up on the course reading or video lectures before joining the classes for an hour or two.
While this means more screen time, students are eager to interact, it’s intense, but they really want to engage with each other and ask questions, because this is their time.
There is an interactive atmosphere online, it feels like you are in a classroom. The general opinion of the students, let’s say their feelings, are coincident in that “they are pleasantly surprised with the attractiveness of an online MBA.”
Another statement from another student says: “Having to study on your own and then having a guided discussion allowed for a deeper immersion into the material. I feel that I had more personal commitment with the professors than ever in previous courses in person”.
It also emerges from all the rescued opinions that we have seen, that the demand for online learning will continue to grow, and this has been verified once the pandemic has been controlled. The reason is that people want more time for themselves, and instead of traveling long distances, they can stay and continue to have an excellent education.
This information has been prepared by OUR EDITORIAL STAFF