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Here Dr Ennis answers questions on the day to day aspects of attending classes here at Strathclyde as a full-time MBA student;
1) Why should MBA students attend class? Are they better off learning off campus most of the time, e.g, going to company visits?
MBA students attend class because it is the working laboratory for them and an opportunity to review and assess the relevant concepts, theories and frameworks that relate to each subject. They come from disparate backgrounds, many from a non-business degree qualification.
They bring a large body of collective experience and wisdom to the party and the seminars are the ideal opportunity to share experiences, learn from peers and the facilitator of the seminar.
With the Strathclyde MBA they also make company visits and meet guest speakers from industry at the various seminars. We place great emphasis on theory and practice and indeed many of the students who apply for our MBA highlight this as an important criterion when making their decision as to where to study.
In short, a good learning experience for an MBA student involves a combination of approaches of which the classroom setting still plays an important part. While online learning and blended learning has an ever-increasing role to play in education, the high level of personal interaction that can be generated in a classroom setting should not be under-estimated.
2) How much time are MBA students spending in class? Is there a percentage figure? What do schools believe is the ideal figure?
I would say that this is a difficult issue to quantify and will vary across business schools. The more relevant question probably is what is the blend of learning experiences that the students are exposed to during their MBA journey with a business school?
At Strathclyde we are introducing more blended learning classes: where students work in a virtual and physical learning environment. Links with other partners mean that students can take up the option of taking elective classes in other business schools. Corporate visits also take them outside the classroom. For our full-time class, the classroom setting still plays a very important role in the learning process.
3) Nowadays, are MBA students motivated to attend classes, lectures and seminars on campus, say compared to previous years, given that it is possible to stream lectures, or watch these later? Has there been a significant fall in class attendance and if so, when did this happen?
I would say that this is definitely happening in the case of under-graduate programmes. This is due to many of these students increasingly working part-time or even full-time in order to finance their studies. The availability of streaming and the posting of lecture presentations also has led to a decline in attendance at under-graduate level.
This has not happened in my experience with MBA classes. Firstly these students are paying “big money” to study for an MBA. They are more motivated: many are taking are year out from their employment or in some cases have resigned their positions in order to acquire an MBA. We have not noticed any significant fall in attendances, certainly not in my time as Director of the programmes.
4) Is your school is using innovative classroom teaching methods to make it more interesting and relevant for students to attend and participate in class? E.g, holding lectures and seminars off-campus.
I like to think that we are using a variety of techniques to stimulate and challenge our MBA class on the Strathclyde MBA. We do use off-campus lectures. We have also introduced what we call a “Friday Forum” for each one of our core classes. At the end of each class e.g. Marketing Management, we invite a company to come into the class and make a presentation which raises a problem or issue in that subject area. The class, working in groups, generate presentations to the client. This is a positive learning experience for everyone.
Strathclyde and its MBA has a major strength in the area of strategy. Our classes in this area also are very client-focused. The role of companies in this block of classes ensures that the students “learn by doing”. The involvement of companies in this area means that students have an ideal opportunity to apply some of the concepts and frameworks learnt in the class-room setting to the realities of the market-place.
5) Are there too many distractions in class? E.g. a student may bring a laptop to class, play games online (Candy Crush) and not pay attention to lectures. Does your school have a policy of banning laptops and mobile phones in class? It there a new classroom etiquette in this tech age?
This is an issue; particularly in an environment that is multi-cultural. We set the agenda during the first week by laying down the ground-rules. Mobile phones are banned. Laptops are allowed; many students download slides and work with them during the presentation. With the odd exception I find that students are amenable to this form of etiquette. After all they are coming from a background of working in companies which also have an etiquette about how business should be conducted. If I find someone paying games on their laptop, I will tend to shame them by asking them if they are enjoying it! It tends to put them off doing it again as it usually draws some derisory comments from their colleagues in the class.