Executive MBA Virtual Tuesdays
Opening the Doorway to Remote Teaching & Learning
Questrom School of Business is innovating with digital learning technology to accommodate the changing needs of its professional students. In 2017, the school worked with Digital Learning & Innovation to fund and create a classroom specially equipped to enable faculty and students to hold classes and breakout sessions online.
Executive MBA Program Launches Synchronous Learning
The BU Executive MBA is an 18-month MBA degree program for working executives. Traditionally, over the past 30 years, Questrom School of Business faculty have taught all of the classes on the BU campus, mostly over alternate weekends (Friday through Saturday), to students drawn largely from Metropolitan Boston firms.
In a recent program review, the EMBA program recognized the need to revitalize its curriculum and redefine its approach to changing market conditions. As part of that strategic evolution, EMBA unveiled a new format in December 2016. The new EMBA curriculum features greater integration across management disciplines, a wider reach beyond New England, and a new delivery cadence that more effectively balances the time students have to receive and absorb the material.
Wholesale Teaching & Learning Transformation
A key feature of the new delivery cadence is a component called “Virtual Tuesdays.” With funding and consulting from Questrom School of Business and Digital Learning & Innovation, the EMBA program has created a dedicated classroom equipped with multiple Cisco display monitors.
Using the Zoom online conferencing platform, faculty now can teach students synchronously. Several three-hour online classes have been added to the curriculum in which students participate fully from the comfort of their homes or offices. To accommodate the additional sessions, the normal weekend campus classes are now farther apart (every three weeks during the first year instead of two).
“It is a wholesale transformation in how we teach executives,” said Sandy Harper, EMBA assistant dean . “This is an accelerated Executive MBA program, so the pace can be pretty grueling. We wanted to give the professors a chance to deepen and reinforce the materials between on-campus sessions, and to give the students a chance to have things soak in and to work more with the materials.”
Faculty Learn to Teach Differently
“Traditionally, the mode of executive education is face-to-face,” said Jonathan Lehrich, associate dean for executive education. “You want to keep elements of that – the value of the network and personal contact with the faculty. There is a way to do this using synchronous digital education, in which faculty are teaching the students and the students are interacting with the faculty and with one another live over the Internet.”
The EMBAs participate actively, in real time, from their homes and offices. The faculty who have tried it in the first several months see these sessions as integral to their courses: a course that formerly met for 36 hours on campus might now be 30 hours in classroom and six hours taking place on Virtual Tuesdays.
“We came to this out of necessity, in order to accommodate the needs of students from across the U.S.,” said Bill Kahn, professor of organizational behavior, dean’s research scholar, and faculty director for the EMBA program.
He noted that getting the faculty comfortable with this new way of teaching requires practice and support. Dedicated support staff train each faculty member, meet with them before each class to review the agenda for the class and how they’ll use the technology, and are in the room during the class to provide support.