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Online MBA Rankings Q&A: Warwick Business School

Online MBA Rankings Q&A: Warwick Business School main image

In conjunction with the launch of our Online MBA Rankings 2020TopMBA had the pleasure to interview different schools associated with the 47 online MBA programs ranked from across the globe.

Warwick Business School’s Distance Learning MBA was named the third online MBA program in the world this year, and so, we spoke to Pietro Micheli, Course Director for the Distance Learning MBA and Professor of Business Performance and Innovation to find out more.

Hearing from the director

This is great news for the staff, students and alumni of WBS.

Our Distance Learning MBA has been running for 30 years, giving us great experience to perfect it. Our learning platform my.wbs is a bespoke design by our eSolutions team and provides a virtual classroom for students where we run lectures, knowledge groups, online case studies and holds rich interactive learning resources. It is much more than using Zoom. While Zoom may help deliver content during the current pandemic, a blended program needs much more thought, effort and investment.

Our program isn’t just an ‘online MBA’, but a blended distance learning MBA. We believe that this program is (and will be in the future) a mix of online and face-to-face content and interaction.

Our experience has enabled us to assess very carefully which material should be created for asynchronous online delivery, which for synchronous online, and which for synchronous face-to-face. These are different ways to engage with students – all with their pros and cons – and our aim is to create the best student learning and experience possible.

The platform gives students a rich and varied learning experience, enabling students to discuss issues in real time with peers and academics.

Students can engage in lectures, test their knowledge, watch archived sessions, access teaching materials, connect with other students, participate in global syndicate groups and speak directly to lecturers, peers and the program team through the platform.

The Distance Learning MBA is very flexible, so when your job needs to take precedence for a while you can choose to slow down or take a break of up to two years before continuing your studies.

There are two residential weeks either at Warwick or at WBS London at The Shard, and there is also the opportunity to study up to two modules face-to-face either at Warwick or WBS London at The Shard or at one of many partner institutions in cities such as Singapore, Prague, Dubai or Beijing.

What sets it apart from other online MBA programs?

Unlike many other schools our Distance Learning MBA is led entirely by faculty from the school and it doesn’t differ from the Full-time and Executive MBA - which helps students greatly and leads to the high satisfaction scores – in terms of its curriculum, so part-time students have to cover the same volume of study, and are marked at the same level as full-time students.

Our CareersPlus team supports students during the course and after graduation. It delivers online workshops and lectures for personal development and career enhancement.

Students have access to Careers Festivals held during both residential weeks, sharing the latest thinking on career management, covering a range of topics from career transition to negotiation skills.

The skills webinars cover topics such as Salary Negotiation, Assertiveness Skills, Managing Workplace Politics, The 2 Hour Job Search, and The First 90 Days. There are many other online resources such as job postings, career management modules, 360-degree online feedback, CV preparation platform and expert insights from industry speakers.

How important are online programs today?

Even before the pandemic technology is pointing to more education being done online. The last recession ushered in innovations like MOOCs and education platforms such as FutureLearn and Coursera, so the severe downturn that we are likely to see could bring another acceleration towards online learning.

Our my.wbs platform has allowed us to move almost seamlessly to online learning for the pandemic. We have been fortunate that our 30 years of working in this area means moving thousands of students to online learning has been possible and hopefully it will not bring about any deterioration in students’ learning.

We have recently launched another online postgraduate program with the Bank of England in the MSc Global Central Banking and Financial Regulation and I can see more companies and organizations wanting the flexibility and scale of online learning.

A combination of online and offline will bring a truly immersive experience to students. Putting lectures on video means more time can be given to discussion and seminars where ideas and theories are analyzed more. It also frees up time for more innovative learning such as using drama, acting out case studies, music, theatre, design and other creative techniques to bring learning to life.

Changes made to WBS’ online MBA

We are proud to be the first UK business to receive the Athena SWAN Silver Award for improving gender equality.

It has recently been decided students can study up to two of their elective modules face-to-face (one face-to-face module is included in their tuition fee) either on campus at WBS, at WBS London, or in cities such as Prague, Singapore and Dubai.

“We are looking to increase networking among students, especially during the residential weeks; provide more elective modules in different, relevant locations; and offer greater flexibility across the MBA portfolio - for example if Distance learning MBA students want to increase the number of face-to-face modules they have.”

The future of WBS’ online MBA

It means constant innovation, experimenting and seeing how blending the digital and physical worlds affects the learning experience for students.

We have a Teaching and Learning Enhancement department that is constantly trialing new technology and ideas to improve student experience. It has two film studios and develops in-house content such as online business games, where students can simulate what happens when they make strategic decisions as a manager of a business.

We invest heavily in EdTech every year and are now trialing a new virtual reality learning experience. The learner journey techniques we have developed from doing MOOCs has helped us to improve the Distance learning MBA.

We are going to companies to film on site, developing mini-documentaries to help open up the subject even more for students. We now have 660 webinars across all our courses, so we can teach fully online, in the classroom or a mixture of both.

It is very much in the early stages, but we are experimenting VR. We are looking at taking the VR camera to a company, to film a manufacturing process, or around the offices of a corporate company. Take students inside a company, to give them a sense of working life there, which could be useful in case study teaching methods.

We could use it to train soft skills as well, interviews, presentations, boardroom meetings, courageous conversations, wage negotiations, contract negotiations etc.

A VR headset would give them a safe place to practice these skills and feedback on their performance can come from the technology as it tracks eye contact. This is already being done in the corporate world, so we could look at bringing that to the business school.

Advice for prospective students?

We are looking for driven individuals who will add their own unique perspective to create a diverse cohort in terms of cultures, professions, sectors and experience.

Distance Learning MBA students meet the same entry requirements and are also aspirational in terms of professional and personal development like other MBA students. Those doing the Distance Learning MBA are on average older and further along their career path.

Candidates must have at least four years’ managerial work experience and we are seeking evidence of consistent progression, this may include people management, budgetary or project management responsibilities.

Niamh Ollerton, Deputy Head of Content at QS
Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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