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New Online MBA Format Launched Nationwide

flexmba-storyimage.jpgIn Fall 2013, the Tepper School of Business will roll out a new part-time format for the Tepper School's MBA program combining online learning with immersive on-site instruction. The FlexMBA will deliver the same curriculum and analytic rigor as the Tepper School’s on campus MBA programs to working professionals across North America through a unique combination of bimonthly campus visits, interactive lectures and self-paced learning.    

“It is the same program, the same classes, the same professors,” said Robert Monroe, associate teaching professor of information technology and computer science. “It’s a heavy-duty MBA program.”

The 32-month FlexMBA caters to students who want to advance their careers and develop their analytical and decision-making skills without disrupting their work lives. “It’s for talented students who live far away and don’t want to move,” said R. Ravi, Carnegie Bosch Professor of Operations Research and Computer Science.

While the trend in online education is toward ever-larger and more impersonal virtual classrooms, the FlexMBA program creates the exact opposite — a small and highly personal blended learning program enrolling about 40-60 students each year. Starting in the fall of 2013, two sections of 20 to 30 students will interact with professors and one another via high-definition interactive video during online classes held once a week in real time. The instruction will be much more interactive than a typical online classroom. “Students will be able to ask the professor a question, talk to classmates, work in groups, share white boards and annotate each others’ work,” Monroe said.  

This interactive mode of distance learning will give students an edge in the workplace, where they are often asked to collaborate with colleagues in faraway offices. “In business, you may be working regularly on a project with someone in Hong Kong, someone in New York, someone in Seattle and someone in London,” Monroe said. “You have to find a way to make it work.”

Students and professors will have face-to-face contact during Access Weekends, three-day on-campus sessions held every seven weeks between mini semesters.  At this time, the FlexMBA class will meet at one of three Carnegie Mellon University sites — Pittsburgh, New York City or Silicon Valley — for the intense instruction bookending the start and end of every class.

During Access Weekends, professors will spend Friday delivering final exams, evaluating group projects or providing a review of the class. Then on Saturday and Sunday, students will kick off the two new classes of the new semester with two hours of classroom instruction. “It’s very intense,” Ravi said. “This will provide the scaffolding for the courses. You might form teams or start projects. The professor will lay out the highlights of the course and places you can apply it.”

During these action-packed weekends, students also will meet with coaches from the Accelerate Leadership Center and the staff of the Career Opportunities Center. “Rotating the location of these weekends to different geographic areas also allows us to involve different alumni and industries and to further create a unique and valuable student experience,” said Mike Trick, senior associate dean for education.  

Once they return home, FlexMBA students will read assigned textbooks and cases, watch short videos, take quizzes and complete assignments at their own pace in preparation for the live classroom sessions. Instead of a traditional lecture, the professor will ask students to apply material they have studied and may have groups of students present projects..

Students and professors will be able to interact in flexible and rich ways. “By having tools for video chatting with teammates whenever they need to, and collaborating on the same document, we will bring down the barriers that distance might pose,” Ravi said.

Depending on where students live, they can watch a section either in Eastern or Pacific Standard Time.  

The Tepper School is committed to providing students with the best possible educational experience and will implement new online technologies as they are developed. “We fundamentally believe that the value of a Carnegie Mellon education occurs both inside and outside the lecture halls,” Monroe said. “The value is the structure of the curriculum and the interaction students have with professors and each other, the complex and rich projects and assignments they do.”

The admissions and graduation requirements for FlexMBA are the same as for the Tepper School’s full- and part-time, on-campus MBA programs.

The Tepper School is currently accepting applications for the first FlexMBA cohort in Fall 2013. Further information is available at www.tepper.cmu.edu/flexmba


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Mark D. Burd

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Tepper School of Business
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