Blended MBA for Executives: Combining the Convenience of an Online MBA with Face-to-Face Interaction

Blended MBA for Executives: Combining the Convenience of an Online MBA with Face-to-Face Interaction main image

This article is sponsored by IE Business School.Learn more about their three blended EMBA programs.


While online programs make it easier for executives to fit an EMBA into their demanding work schedules, the lack of face-to-face meetings makes networking and assessment more difficult. What executives may not know, however, is that they also have the option of participating in a blended EMBA program which combines online learning with face-to-face time on campus.  Not only do blended programs allow for in-person networking and examinations, but students can instantly apply what they learn to their jobs.


What is Blended Learning?

A blended EMBA combines different forms of online learning with traditional classroom learning. Unlike online EMBA programs, blended EMBA programs are not conducted exclusively online -- students are required to spend time in the classroom. At IE Business School for example, 60% of EMBA program content is delivered online and students meet face-to-face at least 3 times during the course of their MBA program. In addition to real-time (synchronous) online classes, IE’s program incorporates asynchronous learning, which enables students to access lessons at anytime.
A blended program also allows for in-person assessment in order to measure how much students have learned. Professor Newton Campos is the director of admissions for Blended Programs and adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at IE Business School. He states that, “One of the big, big, problems that online programs have is the assessment part. How do you measure if people learned well and if they are developing?” He states that a blended program solves this since most of the key exams and presentations are delivered face-to-face.

Education for Executives: Balancing Work and School

For people who can’t devote 100% of their schedule to getting an MBA, the blended format allows students to balance their business education with work and family.
When Campos arrived in Madrid to work for IE, he was surprised to see an increasing pool of candidates applying to the MBA in its blended format.
Why were so many students opting for a blended MBA? According to Campos, “they were doing so well in their careers that they said ‘You know what? I can’t stop to do a full-time MBA right now.’”
For high potential professionals and executives with young children, especially women, the blended format also allows them to get their MBA while raising a family, particularly when the MBA is combined with maternity leave or a leave of absence from work.
A blended MBA is also a good option for people who expect to undergo major life changes during the course of their MBA program. If there’s a chance that you have to move for work, being in a face-to-face-only MBA program may get in the way of your relocation. A blended EMBA program, however, allows you to continue studying in your current MBA program despite your move. IE’s blended EMBA programs, for example, allow students to get their MBAs from anywhere in the world by combining residential weeks with forum based asynchronous sessions and live videoconference sessions, all led by the same professors that teach full-time MBAs and Executive MBAs on campus.

Online Class Discussions: A Chance to Dig Deeper

For Campos, the biggest advantage of a blended EMBA program is the fact that students can take what they learned from the online interactive discussions and apply it to their job between classes. “You have a chance to experiment much more and share what you are learning with your company than in a program done exclusively face-to-face. Classes and workgroups in blended programs emulate very well the way global projects are undergone today.”
For example, if a student is assigned a Human Resources case study, he can discuss it online with his classmates and also meet with his company’s HR director.  He can then share what he learned from that interview with his professor and classmates in class, while solving the case. After that, he can even bring back some ideas given by his classmates to improve his own company's HR policies. Students ended up entering in a continuous benchmarking state.
The online part of blended learning can be divided in two subparts.  For example, IE’s Blended EMBA programs consist of live videoconferences that last 1h30 and asynchronous forum based sessions that last 3 days. Forum based sessions give students more time to think before making a comment than they would in a traditional classroom MBA program. Campos feels that this leads to deeper class discussion because, “while you’re having the forum based class, and you’re debating and discussing, you can always go to a different window and take a look at that concept to see if that concept is really applicable to that case before you make the comment.”

MBA Networking in a Blended Program

It’s important to look for a distance EMBA program which offers opportunities for face-to-face interactions with classmates and professors.
Campos states that this face-to-face networking is the reason why students in IE’s blended MBA program feel the same sense of belonging as students who have lived and studied on IE’s campus for a whole year. “This happens because they "suffer" -- like every single IE student -- for a whole year together. When you don’t have the face-to-face component, you risk losing the sense of cohort that is so crucial in a vigorous alumni community like ours.”
The face-to-face interactions of a blended EMBA program also allow students to develop bonds with classmates that last well beyond the duration of the MBA program. IE holds an annual alumni meeting where an award is given to the most united alumni class of the year – the class that kept in touch the most after their MBA program – and every year since 2006 the award tends to go to a class from one of IE’s blended MBA programs. The reason blended EMBA alumni stay connected with their classmates is because they got into the habit of emailing and skyping their classmates regularly during their MBA program, and continue their online interactions after graduation.
A blended EMBA combines the convenience of an online EMBA program with the face-to-face advantages of a classroom MBA program, enabling executives to get their degree despite having such a busy schedule. No MBA program is one-size-fits-all, however, which is why MBA applicants need to do their homework in order to make an informed decision.
This article is sponsored by IE Business School. 
Written by Louise O'Conor
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