To better meet the needs of working professionals hoping to continue their education, Illinois State University is changing its traditional, on-campus Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program to a blended format. Starting in spring 2020, the required in-class time will be cut in half, and in lieu of coming to campus multiple times a week, students will complete online components that help to support and complement the live classroom material.

The format is geared to meet the needs of busy professionals whose schedules require flexibility. While still pursuing their career goals, MBA students can work on course materials when it suits their schedule and do not have to devote as much time during the week to traveling to and from class.

“The traditional idea of putting your career on hold for two years and getting your MBA started to fade away for good reason. It’s hard to stop everything and get two years of education,” said Terry Noel, Ph.D., associate dean for Academic Programs and Curriculum.

He then described how switching to a new MBA format will not only better serve Illinois State students in a fast-paced, technology-driven world, but the change will also allow the program to practice what it preaches about the importance of responding to changes in the world of business with innovation and adaptability. The associate dean further noted utilizing a blended model introduces students to the type of technology they will encounter in the workplace, including live virtual meetings and asynchronous video chats.

“In higher education, we had to ask ourselves the question, ‘How does this technology work to enhance what we do in the classroom?’” he said. “We can have live meetings with full video and audio. We can have sophisticated test taking and file sharing and simulations and chat groups and all of these things. Students are seeing this technology in the workplace, so it’s a very fair question to ask, ‘Why aren’t you using the very technologies that we’ll be seeing in the workplace in delivering an MBA?’”

Some institutions offer fully online MBA programs, but the associate dean noted that delivery method does not meet the needs and preferences of all students.

“Students tell us over and over that what they value about our MBA program is the ability to have long-term, fruitful interactions with professors. I think that’s part of our identity,” he said. “Our blended model allows us to give our students the best of both worlds—the extended live contact in classes and yet using intelligently the educational technology that we have that supports that.”

In addition to transitioning to the new format and incorporating technology, the College of Business also is making changes to the number of credits required for the graduate degree.

“The hours reduction is just in keeping with some trends that we’re seeing in MBA programs in general. By going from 42 credit hours required down to 36, we think that’s going to make us more competitive,” Noel said.

He went on to say that he is looking forward to the future of the program and hopes to see enrollment grow in the coming years.

“We’re going to have to continue to explore ways to respond to the student of today and to do that while maintaining what is best about us, which is a quality education at an affordable price in a student-centered place that doesn’t make you feel like a number. We don’t need to lose our identity to come into the 21st century,” Noel said.

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