Dr Nicos Nicolaou, CEO, UNICAF, an organisation dedicated to opening up access to quality higher education in sub-Saharan Africa and transforming the lives of gifted and often underprivileged students, explores the benefits for students of a blended MBA…
Blended learning has been the latest buzzword, heard with increasing frequency, throughout the past decade. Generally, blended learning MBAs involve a combination of both online learning and face-to-face contact with a lecturer or advisor in a classroom. Along with online and distance learning the blended concept has risen in popularity, effecting major change to the way degrees, and particularly MBAs, have traditionally been delivered.
The greatest precursor to the rise of blended learning has been the rapid development of technology which has enabled education to be cut free from the constraints of physical location and made it possible for students to be reached over vast distances.
A student in Somalia can, for example, sign on to a computer and complete work set by a lecturer in the UK. The implications of this for traditional providers, as well as students in developing nations are staggering. Flexibility is an obvious benefit. Students can complete work in a location of their choice and at a time that best suits them with course materials available 24/7.
The on-ground element of the degree, however, means that students are still able to receive highly-personalised teaching and mentoring as well as interact with other students. For those keen to retain some element of the traditional campus experience this option is ideal as it allows them to retain relative autonomy whilst still receiving a high level of support.
A further significant benefit of a blended MBA is that they are generally cheaper than purely campus based degrees. Without the need to build $50million campuses, providers are able to cut the cost of studying by as much as 80%.This opens up the opportunity for study to a far greater number of students, particularly to those unable to afford the costs associated with travel to and residence in a foreign country for upwards of two years.
At UNICAF we find that the majority of students wishing to complete an MBA want to do so whilst working. A blended option allows them to do this and in many cases means students can continue providing for their family whilst studying
Other previous obstacles associated with online and blended degrees are also being removed. With many western universities now offering their degrees remotely through partnerships with private providers, concerns over the quality of distance learning are disappearing. Similarly employers, looking to recruit high-quality MBA graduates are recognising the value of students who have completed degrees remotely. A student who has maintained a full-time job whilst studying for their MBA is clearly a highly motivated individual.
Furthermore the lack of infrastructure that previously prevented MBAs being offered remotely is now being overcome. In Africa for example, we’re actually seeing mobile technology leapfrogging the west, a tool which many of our students use to access course materials. Blended learning is allowing access to MBAs to catch up with demand, a development which is certain to continue to grow.