Preparing for the future

Executive MBA programmes are becoming more flexible – leveraging distance learning and preparing business leaders for the collaborative future, says Michael Desiderio, executive director of the Executive MBA Council.

16846023595_b22b670d4a_kAs today’s business leaders face the constant pressure of having to realize profits in shorter time horizons, and with fewer resources, executive MBA (EMBA) programmes have been responding with innovations and solutions to serve the needs of this constituency.

While we hear consistently from EMBA programme alumni about the value of face-to-face time shared with peers in a classroom, there is recognition that technology and the flipped classroom can offer an element of flexibility that allows this group to get the best of both worlds.

As EMBA programmes evolve, technology is changing the landscape and supporting the development of new options for programme delivery. Some programmes now leverage distance-learning technology for various aspects of classes. Collaboration software helps bring teams with members from different parts of the world together, as does teleconferencing, web conferencing, or even Skype. EMBA programmes are also increasing their use of electronic course materials, helping lighten the load for students who travel.

Broader and richer interaction

So as EMBA programmes evolve, interactions are coming in new shapes and sizes. Thanks to technological advances, the innovations in format are resulting in broader and richer opportunities for business leaders to interact with one another, which is the heart of peer learning.

We shouldn’t diminish the importance of the faculty member at the front of the classroom, but there is no denying that the peer group, and the level of experience from the students in the room, is an integral part of what makes an EMBA unique and valuable. Studying business cases and then analyzing them with a group of experienced peers provides a path to looking at the business enterprise through a new set of lenses as compared to the view one might have if discussing it solely with his/her peers at work. This allows for a more rapid transfer of absorbing knowledge to applying it.

And while EMBA programmes have always been designed for applied learning, they are taking that notion to new levels as students participate in projects with real-life applications, tackle problems within their own organisations, explore the viability of entrepreneurial ventures, or consider solutions to global business issues.

Evolving landscape

If history is an indicator, EMBA programmes will continue to add new models, and experiment with new approaches that serve business professionals, as a way of helping today’s leaders have access to a world-class business education despite time constraints.

While today’s business leaders are looking for elements of flexibility, and EMBA programmes are finding ways to adapt and adjust to meet the needs of the changing workplace, it’s critical for business leaders to invest in their own development.

There’s no denying the workplace may have changed as compared to what the previous generations experienced, but the need for highly competent leaders hasn’t gone away. Instead it’s grown to new levels. And thus flexibility isn’t just about access to education in new and different ways but it also speaks to how flexible, how agile our leaders of tomorrow are. This agility comes with expanded knowledge and a wider skill set that doesn’t happen by accident; it happens through investment in our own professional development.

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