Monday October 9, 2017

Reimagining the MBA

By Eric F. Spina

Just 12 short months ago, faculty in the School of Business Administration approved a new version of their MBA program, one in which we partner with 2U Inc., the national leader in supporting high-quality, high-touch online education.

What’s happened since then has been remarkable.

Scores of digital  ads touted the UD MBA difference across the country on multiple platforms, and the admission office received numerous inquiries about the program. This summer, 10 faculty members traveled to 2U’s video-production studio in Arlington, Virginia, to record lectures and case studies over an intense two days. This material, which can be viewed 24-7 on a computer, tablet or mobile app, will supplement the weekly webcam classes.

Last week culminated with more than 100 students enrolling in 10 online MBA classes in a program we’ve dubbed MBA@Dayton. That’s more than double our initial expectations, speaking to the power of radically rethinking how we deliver graduate education. Our traditional MBA program draws working professionals largely from the greater Dayton region. Students in the inaugural cohort hail from 20 states and the District of Columbia. It's a diverse class, with 29 percent minority students. The students are also bringing, on average, 11 years of valuable professional experience to the classroom discussions.

The University of Dayton is meeting MBA students with classes where they are — whether on an airplane bound for a Shanghai business meeting or in their Pittsburgh home stealing some quiet minutes after putting the toddler to bed.

On the first day of classes it looked like a modern version of the long-running game show “Hollywood Squares” when 15 students logged onto Mary Grilliot’s online class in performance measurement systems.

All of their faces appeared arrayed on their screens, allowing for spontaneous conversation with each other and their accounting professor who taught the live course via a tiny webcam atop her Miriam Hall office computer.

The pioneering faculty in MBA@Dayton are no longer parceling out their knowledge, nugget by nugget, by furiously scribbling concepts on a whiteboard. They’re reimagining learning and teaching in the digital age. I give them immense credit for the vast number of hours they’re devoting to recreating a high-quality, rigorous University of Dayton educational experience in an online classroom where the Socratic method is still very much alive.

Indeed, by frontloading content that students learn asynchronously, the faculty use their “Hollywood Squares” small-group sections to engage much more deeply with students, who in turn can bring their professional experience to bear on the discussions.

Unlike other online programs, the students meet in real life — and not just at graduation. During the program, they will attend two immersions — one on campus focusing on servant-leadership and another in either China studying business practices or in Napa Valley studying operations management processes in the wine industry.

As the lines between work and home become increasingly blurred, we are making a UD MBA degree accessible for a growing number of students juggling life and work in a fast-paced world.

And we’re audacious enough to believe we can replicate UD’s engaging campus experience in a digital classroom that offers both flexibility and rigor. MBA@Dayton will be distinctly “UD,” with the faculty focused on ensuring that the program supports skill development in the spirit of the University’s Marianist charism. We are preparing leaders who will take the University’s “Learn. Lead. Serve.” motto to heart.

We’re dreaming big, but statistics and stories say we are surfing the wave of the future. 2U, which partners with nearly two dozen national universities in programs ranging from business to nursing, has strong data to prove it. Approximately 83 percent of students in these programs are either still enrolled or graduated.

This is a model that will allow us to offer the best digital version of ourselves in a world powered by technology yet hungering for the human connection.

Welcome to MBA@Dayton.

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