Lockdowns might be history but online MBAs are here to stay

COVID-19 closed classrooms but applicants kept studying on and applying to MBA courses, prompting business schools to further develop their capacity for online teaching. Associate Director Stephanie Mullins and colleague Jamie Hose from specialist business education PR consultancy BlueSky Education explore eight business schools and their online or hybrid MBA programmes.

Before the pandemic struck, the subject of web-based courses was handled with trepidation by some – many management professors feared it was antithetical to everything an MBA stood for, namely face-to-face teaching and the opportunity to network with fellow students.

As the international health crisis fades in the rear-view mirror (hopefully for good), many institutions now regard the potential of online learning with optimism. In fact, 82% of European business schools with an online MBA expect the course to see more attention from international students in the next three years, reveals a recent QS Admissions Survey.

Not that the classic in-person style of teaching is likely to go extinct. The online MBA is not intended as a replacement, rather as an alternative that comes with its own benefits. Internet courses are appealing to candidates who do not wish to travel (or are prevented in some way) for their education – but the potential for bonding between students has to be tackled differently due to the presence of the screen.

For this reason, online MBAs are often popular amongst students aged 34 or over, who are rooted in their careers and often have young families. It’s the younger cohorts that are usually more amenable to travel and live on campus in order to immerse themselves in full-time education.

With this in mind, a number of business schools have built courses specifically designed to be taught online, or in a hybrid format, to capitalise on students predisposed towards remote learning. Here are eight examples:

Imperial College Business School

Ranked 1st in the UK and 2nd in the world according to the QS online MBA rankings 2022, Imperial offers a course that prioritises flexibility. The course is taught part-time and students can choose how quickly they want to progress – completion can take 21, 24 or 32 months.

The range of modules on offer has been expanded to include analytics, entrepreneurship and marketing. Although the majority of the course is internet-based, students will meet on the London campus for induction week and the Capstone module, and opportunities for travel are available as part of certain electives.

Durham University Business School

 An online MBA at Durham need not be entirely taught through a laptop. The university offers programmes that are conducted 100% online as well as blended learning. Course resources including videos, industry insights and articles are available 24/7 on the virtual learning platform which forms the foundation of the MBA.

Six core modules comprise the backbone of the Durham experience, with options for students to choose an additional two modules or pursue a structured pathway in the areas of entrepreneurship, consultancy or technology.

GBSB Global Business School

GBSB Global provides a similar 24/7 access to learning resources to Durham, structuring a relatively swift programme that requires 10 months to complete. The institution was recognised as a Microsoft Showcase School for its technological capabilities and provides online services that allow students to chat with professors and collaborate on group projects with peers.

Courses in entrepreneurship, marketing management, operations and supply chain management, international business, and finance are available as online MBAs, with a particular emphasis on innovation. The result is a body of alumni 92% of whom are satisfied “much” or “to a great extent” with the time they invested at GBSB Global.

ESMT Berlin

Harnessing the advantages of an online approach, ESMT Berlin offers an online MBA designed to be completed while students are working full-time. A commitment of 15 hours per week is expected for students to progress through the modules at a reasonable pace.

However, the timeframe is flexible, with the option for students to stretch out their studies for up to five years! The programme is weighted heavily in favour of pre-recorded lectures and resources, with live sessions comprising 10% of the course. Every live session is run at least twice to make it available to students in all time zones.

Vlerick Business School

An online MBA with Vlerick prioritises leadership skills, kicking off with a seven-week leadership development course. This is followed by 11 other core modules covering topics such as innovation, negotiation and human resource management.

Additional modules build upon the theme of leadership. Examples are the “think like a leader, act like a leader” programme and “the leader as coach”. Students’ skills are put to the test in the Integrated Management Exercise (IMEx), an interactive business game where participants compete to run the most successful business over seven weeks.

Alliance Manchester Business School

This triple-accredited flexible Global MBA starts as soon as a student has had their application accepted and paid their tuition fees. Alliance Manchester makes available a 15-hour long preparation course, preparing students for their following period of study.

The motto of this MBA is “Learning by Doing” and, alongside online learning, most modules involve an intensive three-day workshop at one of the school’s five global workshop locations.

Trinity Business School

Taught 80% online and 20% on campus in Dublin, this MBA grounds students by using the real-world strategic issues of three major Irish and international companies as case studies. Embracing the advantages of technology, Trinity brings pupils living all around the world together in “The Matrix Room”.

Learning is split into three terms: two three-module terms placed on either side of a more intense four-module semester. Teaching methods combine lectures, guest speakers, live-action learning, projects and workshops. The course culminates with students learning about leadership and the climate emergency, reflecting the growing dedication in global business education to innovations in sustainability.

MIP Politecnico di Milano

MIP Politecnico di Milano offers its students the flexibility to decide where and how to access their lesson material from anywhere in the world and with any device.

Federico Frattini, Dean of MIP, believes that the future of work is going to be more agile and flexible, and far more reliant on digital technologies, and the same is true for the future of learning. As such, online learning at MIP is much more than just Zoom and PowerPoint slides. Frattini and his colleagues have built an excellent digital offering in the form of the i-Flex programme.

Alongside FLEXA – the business school’s AI learning platform which doubles as a career coach for potential students, current cohorts and alumni, which was also developed in partnership with Microsoft – the i-Flex is extremely advanced. Through ground-breaking AI technologies, i-Flex enables students to learn through a state-of-the-art platform, which is constantly being updated in line with technological advancements.

See more articles by Stephanie Mullins.