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EdTech: The Business School Driving Digital Innovation With MOOCs, Virtual Reality And An Online MBA

Ian Myatt is helping consolidate Birmingham Business School's place as a pioneer of educational technology with their new Online MBA and Online MSc in International Business

Tue Jul 5 2016

“Employers and industry are increasingly expecting learning to be delivered online,” says Ian Myatt, director of educational enterprise at the University of Birmingham.

Developments in technology-enhanced learning, or edtech – means more and more MBA and masters programs are being offered online. And while employers once questioned the credibility of online courses, the tide is changing.

Birmingham Business School is at the forefront of this change, developing a host of pioneering distance learning initiatives including an Online MSc in International Business and the Online MBA, the world’s first and only 100% Online MBA to receive full AMBA accreditation.

The program’s learning objectives and outcomes are the same as the campus-based course; the academics are of equivalent calibre, the subject matter is near-indistinguishable, and when students graduate the certificate they receive is the same. For employers, there’s no distinction.

It’s a pioneering approach which has helped Birmingham to extend its reach into new global markets. On the Online MBA and MSc combined, 63% of students are international, and the courses are comprised of 86 different nationalities.

Ian is at the center of digital innovation at the university. He previously spent 15 years at the BBC, masterminding the creation of catch up TV and radio service BBC iPlayer and online learning resources BBC Bitesize and iWonder, before joining the University of Birmingham in August 2014.

We spoke to Ian about innovations in technology-enhanced learning, dealing with the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and how online programs are disrupting the traditional classroom-based model.

How are you developing edtech at the University of Birmingham?

My background is very much in digital product management and delivering online experiences that people really enjoy.

With that in mind, I’ve tried to adopt a more product-orientated approach to how we design and deliver programs; to think about the wider student experience and how to join the physical and online aspects of learning together.

It’s not just about the core educational experience. It’s also about the extra-curricular side; the networks you strike up and the experiences you gain.

Will you incorporate virtual reality into long-distance learning?

I can see genuine functional benefits where working within a virtual world can have a massive impact.

But I don’t want it to be gimmicky. We’ll evaluate the best technologies coming out and identify where we think we can add genuine value.

Actually, we’re already using virtual reality as a way of letting people see what our physical campus looks like. It’s a great way to immerse yourself into the University of Birmingham experience.

Do you see the rise of MOOCs as a challenge or an opportunity?

We’ve designed and delivered our own MOOCs, and we can absolutely see how MOOCs fit into our offering.

The beauty of a MOOC is it can whet people’s appetites to a subject: a percentage of those people who take a MOOC may well then pursue further paid courses, and ultimately a degree.

MOOCs help us to reach new audiences and to get our learning products and research out there as well; extending the reach and the impact of the university globally.

What makes Birmingham Business School’s Online MBA unique?

The University of Birmingham has a global footprint. It was the first civic university in England and we have alumni in virtually every country in the world.

[The Online MBA] is a fresh and new product that draws from Birmingham’s great tradition. This is not a campus-based course that we’ve just put online; we’ve built this from the ground up, taking on board the current online environment and latest technology that we have available.

What are the main benefits of studying online?

People studying online often work alongside their studies, meaning they consistently apply their learning.

Plus, the online environment can ensure a consistently high-quality product and experience no matter where people and staff are based.

Can online programs ever provide the same level of interactivity and networking opportunities as traditional classroom-based programs?

It’s not about trying to replicate campus-based experiences like for like; it’s about trying to find equivalent ways of interaction.

There’s no doubt that with Skype, video and audio conferencing, messaging services and shared documents, there are many ways in which you can collaborate with each other online that are actually more efficient and effective than in a face-to-face environment.

Are online business programs a threat to the existence of the traditional classroom-based model?

In certain markets, maybe. The needs of both students and employers are changing; they’re demanding more flexible methods of delivery that can fit around busy schedules.

Increasingly, we’ll see a shift to more flexible ways of learning, opening up learning to a whole new market, and potentially shifting the existing market in that direction too.

Student Reviews

Birmingham Business School - University of Birmingham




On Campus

An amazing experience

Great, knowledgeable faculty with a beautiful campus. Lots of societies and clubs to choose from in accordance with your interest. One can also discover scholarship opportunities here. The course is perfectly designed and the career services at the uni are very helpful




On Campus

The beautiful campus and teaching expertise.

Overall the University of birmingham is just an incredible institution. From the array of expertise teachings and how phenomenal the campus is definitely enhances its beauty and is enriched with the amazing resources and incredible people that are always willing to help and make you feel welcomed everywhere you go. I would 100% recommend the University of Birmingham to be one of the best universities out there and through not only the various courses that they offer but all the social societies definitely adds to the fun and great opportunities that it provides




On Campus

Exceptional Support for international Students

Exceptional Support for International Students As an international student, my experience at the University of Birmingham has been nothing short of extraordinary, thanks to the outstanding support provided for international students. I would like to share my thoughts and experiences regarding the exceptional support I've received during my time here. From the moment I arrived on campus, it was evident that UoB prioritizes the well-being and success of its international students. Here are some key aspects of the support I've received: 1. Orientation Programs: The university's comprehensive orientation programs helped me acclimate to campus life, navigate administrative processes, and understand the academic system. I never felt lost or overwhelmed, thanks to the informative sessions and friendly staff. 2. Academic Advising: The academic advisors for international students are incredibly knowledgeable and approachable. They assisted me in creating a personalized academic plan, selecting courses, and understanding degree requirements. Their guidance ensured that I stayed on the right track academically. 3. Language Support: UoB offers exceptional language support services, including English language courses and conversation partners. These resources were invaluable in improving my language skills and building confidence in my communication abilities. 4. Cultural Integration: The university fosters a diverse and inclusive environment, making it easy for international students to feel like part of the community. There are numerous cultural clubs, events, and workshops that allow us to connect with fellow students and celebrate our diverse backgrounds. 5. Mental Health and Counseling Services: Recognizing the challenges that international students may face, the university provides excellent mental health and counseling services. It's comforting to know that support is available when needed, and these services are respectful of cultural differences. 6. Career Services: UoB offers exceptional career services tailored to international students. From resume workshops to job fairs, they've been instrumental in helping me prepare for my career post-graduation. The university's strong network of alumni has also been a valuable resource. 7. Visa and Immigration Assistance: Navigating the complexities of visa and immigration regulations can be daunting, but the university's dedicated staff provided guidance and assistance throughout the process. Their expertise made the experience seamless. 8. Housing Support: Securing suitable housing can be a challenge for international students, but the university offers assistance in finding on-campus housing options with flexible payments. This support ensured that I had a safe and comfortable place to live. 9. Financial Aid and Scholarships: UoB offers various scholarships and financial aid options for international students. Their commitment to making education accessible is commendable, they also provide financial support for graduation through the guild of students.




On Campus

student experience

I highly recommend the University of Birmingham. I think the school environment is very friendly to international students. I was able to get guidance and help from students in the school. I was also able to get support and guidance from the professional team on my career path. I would recommend the University of Birmingham to first-time international students and Masters students.




On Campus

There is always somebody to help!

The university respects the culture and background of their highly diverse student. It carters to everybody's need and puts its student first. It tries to the make the student feel at home and helps them deal with the university life.




On Campus


I love studying Pharmacy at Birmingham and would absolutely recommend it, especially because of the variety in every aspect of the course. Firstly, the variety of people you meet from all areas around the country, and even countless others from outside the country. Each person has a different background and experiences creating a melting pot of personalities to interact with. Next, the lessons - there are numerous types of lessons we encounter on a weekly basis from lectures to dissections to a computer workshops. Additionally, specific to medical degrees, I have 7 placements annually in hospital, community, and GP pharmacies. The only lack of variety in the pharmacy course is the classrooms since there are limited number we can use and the medical school is separate from the main campus. The only part I don't enjoy about pharmacy is the distances and unreliability of public transport in Birmingham. Living in the vale, the university is a long 25-minute walk away and my closest shop is over 10-20 minutes to walk. Although there are closer accommodations, I really love my flat with its modern decor, large room, and social aspect of the shared kitchen.




On Campus

Experience at University of Birmingham

University of Birmingham has been an outstanding university. They have provided complete support during COVID-19. The university is incredible when accessing support with mental health. I currently study criminology at the university of Birmingham. The course has been brilliant, with constant support from lectures and tutors to ensure that you achieve the best grade possible. I could not recommend University of Birmingham more!




On Campus


Great campus for studying with kind and professional staff and the campus is very well connected to the city center. There were so many people who wanted to enroll in the course that they had to queue for a new course for six months in advance. The classes were always crowded, but the professors never let anyone through. I love this uni




On Campus

A very welcoming uni

This university is regarded as one of the best in the world. They provide a welcoming environment that enhances the lives of the students because each one of them has a sense of community and a desire to study.