Online education offers global access to knowledge, resources, and expert insight.
From the mid-level manager wanting to transition to the executive suite, to the farmer in Kenya who wants to know how to maximize his annual crop yield, Education Technology—EdTech for short—is having a huge impact on the way we learn.
It’s no different on the Online MBA program at Birmingham Business School; EdTech is the new black, and it’s unlocking doors the world over.
BusinessBecause caught up with University of Birmingham Online MBA tutor, Andrew Parker, who reveals what students can expect from the program — which was the world’s first 100% online MBA to be awarded accreditation by the Association of MBAs (AMBA)— and what they are set to gain from distance-learning.
Andrew tutors on all Online MBA first-year core modules and specializes in operations management. He also focuses on global service operations and management integration in year two, all of which are consistent with his practical experience.
“I class my role as partly helping the module leader deliver the course content but also help students apply it to develop their working careers by sharing my own experiences” he says. “I act almost as a mentor for the eight weeks we’re together [on each module].”
The work the students are doing and will be doing in the future is becoming increasingly digitized. The world is moving online, and so should they.
Work no longer involves just meeting people face-to-face as often as it used to. Interactions are carried out online—through webinars and online discussions—so by studying and interacting with their peers in a similar environment, students subconsciously develop digital communication skills imperative in the roles they hold or will hold in the future, Andrew explains.
Throughout Birmingham’s Online MBA, fortnightly live sessions connect tutors, lecturers, and groups of students in an interactive, online learning environment—the sessions are two and a quarter hours long. Students are also often placed into group work exercises which are intentionally culturally diverse.
“It closely resembles the real life of work that they are probably already in,” Andrew adds. “In a classroom that doesn’t always happen as you would not get such a diverse range of people signing up to a campus-based course for one-to-two years.”
Students learn from a mix of academics and industry practitioners, like Andrew, who have worked all over the world and bring with them an understanding of how cultural and business characteristics differ between nations.
“The thing that I find most interesting is that in pretty much every group we have students born in one part of the world, educated there, and then they break out and move to another part of the world for further education or work experience” he says.
“They have developed but they have not lost their roots, or the passion for where they came from.”
The international students from developing countries, Andrew reveals, tell of the passion they have, to take the knowledge and expertise learned on the Online MBA to develop within their home nations.
By interacting with students from around the world you develop a global network of people from whom you can learn about different cultures, industries, and business practices.
“As time goes by, presumably online communication will become more familiar with older people as the standard way to network,” Andrew says.
Building that network and getting the most out of the Online MBA is up to you though. “It’s their opportunity to really come forward and talk,” explains Andrew.
“One of my goals is that everyone gets a response,” he adds. “If you have a student based in Brazil, or China, who posted a discussion item and didn’t hear back within a reasonable amount of time, they are going to think ‘this is a con’.”
Equal responsibility falls on both students and professors then?
“It’s up to us to deliver the academic theory and to challenge the students as much as possible to relate it to the work they are doing, or going to be doing,” Andrew asserts. “Most aren’t signing up to go back to ‘school’ simplistically; they’re signing-up to do something that will ultimately help to accelerate their careers.”
With the Online MBA, the students get the benefit over classroom learning of a constantly changing curriculum.
“[We] live in a world where you have to redevelop content to respond to the student contributions every other week, and that’s a challenge. You have to be able to stimulate [students’] involvement and engage them.”
“It’s challenging,” he admits, “but we have to embrace technology!”