Taking a year out of employment to advance your career with an MBA is a tough decision.
How will your current employer take the decision? How will you fund your studies?
Luckily, full-time MBAs aren’t your only option. Alternatives to the traditional, on-campus MBA have evolved as the demand for more flexible learning rises.
Most part-time, online MBAs can be taken within three to five years, while many accelerated online MBAs can be completed in 12 to 18 months.
This is exactly the kind of flexibility that Phina Kamanyire sought out when she chose to study the two-year, Online MBA from Maastricht School of Management (MSM) in 2018.
Balancing studies and a career
Ugandan-born Phina wanted the ease of a program that could allow her to continue her 14-year management career.
Phina is used to working in a demanding environment. She’s led teams in a humanitarian organization, responding to disasters in war-torn countries. She also took up managerial roles with charitable organization, Oasis, which serves underprivileged communities.
Phina’s career shows no signs of slowing down. She decided to do an MBA because she wanted to advance further and apply to top-level organizations without leaving the working environment.
“It’s quite expensive to come and spend a full year in the Netherlands, doing that course without a job,” she explains. “I can do both the online MBA and work and have more money.”
Phina recently left her full-time position as the country director for Oasis. She now works a four-day week as a business manager for a public university based in the Netherlands. On the fifth day of the week, she accesses MSM’s online portal.
Maastricht’s Online MBA provides the same level of education as its on-campus MBA programs—the only differences are in its delivery and flexibility.
The 100%-online MBA consists of eight modular lecture sessions including topics on finance, global responsibility, and strategic orientation.
Every week, students are given assignments based on a chosen study text and academic material, from journals to videos.
These assignments are posted in an online discussion forum for each student to view and for the instructors to monitor. Candidates assess each other on communication, critical thinking, and participation. The final course assignment is for the instructor alone to view and assess.
The online MBA requires at least 25 hours a week of participation.
“I find it intense. It takes a lot of commitment and self-motivation,” Phina says. “Right now, we’ve been going full on since June last year.
“It’s structured in a way that you are forced to participate; you’re forced to take a concern in certain subjects.”
Dr. Pascale Hardy, Director Research School and Online Education, explains the difference between this online program and a traditional course.
“Online MBAs are on the rise," she says.
“[On our Online MBA], all the courses are based on the principle of discovery learning, meaning students will learn through their efforts of discovery by reviewing materials from a variety of sources, and undertaking online activities such as writing papers and discussion board posts that demonstrate their knowledge, understanding, and ability to apply it.”
Forming connections online
The students in Phina’s class frequently communicate with one another through the forum discussion.
There is a feeling of solidarity among the group too, as the lecturers pose questions online, and every contribution can benefit each person's answer.
“Because they’re promoting engagement, we’re asked to give feedback or respond to two or three of our fellow students’ answers,” says Phina. "By having access to other students’ work, you learn from them, and because they also review yours, you learn and grow from it,” she continues.
“I’ve been impressed that we can interact, and everyone has an equal level of motivation.”
There is a set structure in place to maintain a routine for the online MBA candidates.
Every two weeks, they have conference calls with the professors, who give them a chance to ask questions. “I think they have been impressed with the level of participation and how much we’ve grown together as a group,” says Phina.
MSM’s Online MBA program is ranked the fourth best Online MBA program in the world by CEO Magazine. Phina says her experience on the program so far has helped her to advance in her career.