The Online MBA is in popular demand; with over 300 students from more than 60 different countries, these figures might suggest a long and gradual journey of growth. At four years in, the programme’s story is impressively short.
“When I started teaching the Online MBA in early 2016, it was still a relatively new operation with just two intakes under its belt,” says Programme Director, Dr Daniel Chicksand, “but it’s since grown rapidly.”
It’s a rise made more remarkable when you consider that Birmingham is far from being the only university to embrace the shift towards distance learning – the market, as Dr Chicksand points out, has grown “increasingly crowded” in recent years.
Meeting the demand for flexible business education
The Online MBA’s introduction was the University of Birmingham’s response to a growing need for more flexibility in business education. We saw that an increasing number of busy and ambitious professionals were looking for ways to develop that didn’t obstruct their career progression or affect other responsibilities and knew we could help.
The launch wasn’t a blind step into a completely new world, as Dr Chicksand explains:
“The University was already a well-established provider of distance learning and blended forms of education, but the launch of the Online MBA and two other distance learning programmes demonstrated our commitment to building a stronger online learning portfolio,” he says.
“It offered those seeking professional development the same quality learning experience as they’d get on-campus - helping to expand our global reach at the same time.”
Building momentum in a global marketplace
If we are to keep drawing students from around the world, the University of Birmingham needs exposure and trust; and the rise of the Online MBA has helped provide more of both.
In mid-2016, the programme reached a milestone by becoming the first of its kind to receive formal AMBA-accreditation – something that Dr Chicksand says proves the value on offer:
“Since AMBA requires a significant level of interaction in their accredited programmes, most other MBAs include a residential element. As the first AMBA-accredited 100 per cent Online MBA, this brings testimony to our innovative programme design and state-of-the-art online learning facilities that benefit professionals across the globe.”
A further stamp of quality came from CEO Magazine, which listed the Online MBA as the third best in the UK based on its combination of quality and value.
“I feel this is an early indicator of how the programme is being reviewed and reflects the high standards we have set in designing and delivering this type of qualification,” Dr Chicksand says.
Recommended read: Online MBA is named in global ranking
Meeting and surpassing expectations
Today’s professionals have more choice than ever over how they develop, because of programmes like the Online MBA. It’s not enough to just offer these programmes though - as learning providers we need to make sure students get the same quality of learning experience however they choose to study.
If you compare the Online MBA to its campus equivalent, the learning objectives and outcomes are both the same.
“The content is near indistinguishable and many of my colleagues who teach on campus also teach on the online programme too,” Dr Chicksand explains.
“When students graduate, even the certificate they receive is the same. So, from an employability perspective, there is no distinction.”
Rather than try to replicate the campus experience, faculty have built the Online MBA from the ground up to deliver value in the context of the current digital environment. The programme uses the latest technologies to provide its own benefits, such as increased flexibility. This in turn allows students to apply their learning in real-time, helping to accelerate their careers.
It’s not just about the core educational experience, either. “It’s about the extra-curricular side too; the networks that students build and the experiences they gain. Combine this with the additional support we have – from Student Services and technological support to our dedicated Careers in Business team – and we have re-defined the Distance Learning MBA to meet the needs of a 21st Century market.”
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