In our new Covid-19 world, Universities across the globe have had to make adaptations to their delivery models, MBA programmes are no exemption. As face-to-face sessions are a crucial part of learning some schools have adopted a "blended" approach.
We were curious about what this approach entails and how students were finding the experience. We spoke to two current MBA candidates, Preeti Patil and Naman Dwivedi both studying a full-time MBA in the UK, to gain two individual perspectives.
According to our interviewees, the blended approach involves a combination of online and face-to-face sessions. It aims to give students the benefit of in-class discussions whilst maintaining compliance with the COVID guidelines (masks, distance, sanitiser stations) and ensuring the safety of staff and students alike. This means that all of the academic parts of the course are face-to-face (with some students allowed to engage online due to travel restrictions). On the other hand, guest lectures, careers events, job search workshops and networking events happen online to maximise participation and interaction.
Q: Please tell us about yourself, your background and what made you decide to pursue an MBA?
PREETI: From Mumbai, India, I am doing an MBA at a top Russell Group University in the UK. I graduated with a Bachelor of Management Studies (Finance) from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai and hold a Post Graduate Diploma in Banking and Finance from Manipal University, Bangalore. For the last 5.5 years, I have been working for a leading public sector bank in India. Initially, I worked in the Compliance and Policy Making Department of Corporate Banking Division and most recently I worked in the Fintech & New Business Initiatives Department working on various projects including vendor financing for e-commerce giants such as Amazon & Flipkart and startup banking.
I decided to pursue an MBA to transition from the public sector to the private sector; enhance my career prospects by upscaling my knowledge and international experience; and to gain a deeper understanding of financial and banking products in a much-evolved market such as that in the United Kingdom.
NAMAN: From India, I am currently doing an MBA at a top Russell Group University in the UK. A Chartered Accountant, I worked in consulting for 4.5 years. After that, I started my own business, worked on it for 2.5 years, got funding and left my position as CEO. During this period of my career, I always felt that I wanted to gain tools to improve my soft skills and leadership skills. I also recognised that I lacked knowledge in the areas of Operations and Marketing. Thus, an MBA was the right choice for me.
Q: Why now, during COVID?
PREETI: I chose to pursue an MBA during COVID because I felt it was a good time to build upon my skills as the world has mostly come to a standstill. More personally, having spent 5.5 years with my previous organization I felt it was time to 'sharpen my saw' before taking up more responsibilities or changing organizations.
NAMAN: Covid-19 has left the world paralysed resulting in recession and restrictions. For me, there is no better time to hone one’s skills than right now. If one can come out of this situation with even the slightest upper hand, that person will reap the benefits.
Q: What do you like about your University's blended approach? And are there any challenges?
PREETI: I like the blended approach because it has been very well managed and balanced. Overall, Term 1 has provided the class with a fair mix of face-to-face interactions and online sessions.
NAMAN: I have liked that during the networking events, the programme team has set-up breakout rooms with a fixed time for each group to interact. This gives everyone a chance to hear speak to the presenter, as opposed to face-to-face networking events where introverts don't always get a chance to speak; they may just listen and hop from group to group. Thus, with online networking, more introverted individuals can post questions and the speakers will respond to most of them. As far as challenges, our class has three cohorts and face-to-face sessions only pertain to my specific cohort, thus interaction with people in the other two cohorts is tough. I have found this has lessened the chances for networking.
Q: Final verdict? Would you recommend blended learning for others? And why?
PREETI: Yes. For a black swan event such as COVID, agility is inevitable. Even in the future, as we continue to maintain social distancing norms, blended learning is apt. As organisations have experienced the benefits of work-from-home, it may be expected that a blended approach such as this may continue to trend in our corporates for cost reduction and safety of vulnerable employees.
NAMAN: Face-to-face engagement helps to create a stronger bond which is important for leveraging networks to one’s advantage. It also helps to develop one's communication and broader soft skills that are required in a leadership position. As a result, I would not recommend blended learning unless it is the last resort.
Are you currently studying an MBA during Covid? If yes, we would love to hear about your experience. Comment or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org