HYBRID, ONLINE PROGRAMS OFFER MORE FLEXIBILITY
Chicago’s is still an exclusively in-person EMBA. “We believe that the learning environment for all students is best when all students are in-person in the classroom,” Morton says.
However, after the pandemic, it does provide a Zoom option for select students who cannot make it to class. They’ve done this for students navigating visa challenges and late-stage pregnancies, for example.
Particularly for EMBA students – seasoned managers and executives with a decade or more experience – the true value of the program comes from the learning and network derived from peers. These are leaders working through the same challenges and opportunities, and the insight they bring to classroom discussions and group work is hard to replicate in other business degree programs. Most schools are reluctant to mess with this in-person advantage, even as other executive education programs and even MBAs have experimented with online and hybrid modalities.
But, more schools are capitalizing on lessons in distance learning hastened by the pandemic.
In May 2021, Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business opened three Global Classrooms. Through a wall of 20 to 40 high-definition monitors, faculty and students can see and hear each other for in-depth class discussions. Professors can engage with both online and in-person students during the same lecture, while having access to virtual tools such as instant polling, whiteboards, chats, and other features to increase engagement.
Emory (No. 13 in P&Q’s composite ranking) became the first top 25 program in the country to offer a fully online EMBA option in August 2022 after launching a hybrid option in fall 2020. There is no degree distinction between Goizueta’s in-person, hybrid, and online EMBA, and students are able to move between all three through the course of the program, depending on their life and work circumstances. So, for example, if a student moves outside the Atlanta area during the course of their program, they can choose to go hybrid or online in subsequent semesters, says Jaclyn Conner, associate dean for executive MBA programs at Goizueta.
“Our degree just says Emory Executive MBA, and we’re very intentional about that. All three formats have the exact same faculty, the exact same set of classes, all the students have the same opportunity to travel together on our global trip. There is no distinction on the resume or on the actual degree,” Connor says.
The hybrid and online options were created after an 18-month research effort that found that prospective students increasingly are seeking greater flexibility, and the time students could commit to on-campus learning was getting shorter and shorter. So far, Emory has seen interest in its fully in-person EMBA hold steady while it is drawing more students from a larger regional area for its alternate formats, Connor says. The breakdown is roughly 40% of students are choosing the online option while the remaining 60% are pretty evenly divided between the hybrid and in-person formats.
“The most noticeable trend we’re seeing is that women are responding to the fully online option. About 50% of the online students are women,” Connor says.
WHARTON ENROLLS FIRST BLENDED COHORT
The Wharton School is also exploring the virtual space, enrolling its first cohort in its Global EMBA in May. The program delivers 75% of the content in live-virtual sessions. The remaining 25% comes during five required residential weeks at the school’s Philadelphia and San Francisco campuses as well as international locations.
It is Wharton’s first-ever live online degree program as well as its first global cohort for its EMBA program, opening up the degree to executives from Asia, North America, Latin America, and Europe.
It is also the first M7 school to launch a primarily virtual degree.
About 50 students enrolled in the first cohort, hailing from 15 different countries on six continents as well as from all corners of the United States, Mauro Guillen, vice dean of the MBA Program for Executives, tells Poets&Quants.
“What is different about the Global cohort is that we’re offering them Wharton learning in two ways. This program is delivered either fully in-person or online synchronously, so our students are learning and working together in real time whenever they meet. They start each term in-person with one another, which helps to quickly build bonds and camaraderie,” Guillen says.
“We are also committed to making sure our EMBA students can connect and learn from each other across our Philadelphia, San Francisco and Global cohorts. Students from all three cohorts will have their first chance to meet in-person on our San Francisco campus next month.”
Wharton’s Philadelphia and San Francisco Executive MBAs meet in-person every other weekend. That intensive schedule was not possible for engineering executive Deeptaanshu “Deep” Kumar. He manages teams from around the world, and he has to travel internationally for extended periods.
So, when Wharton announced its Global EMBA last August, he eagerly applied. He attends virtual classes on Thursday evenings as well as Friday and Saturday mornings through Wharton’s WAVE classroom – Wharton Academic Virtual Environment. The interaction he managed even through the virtual format made Kumar feel like part of a cohort.
“The faculty and staff all make an effort to foster strong engagement during online classes and to make themselves available for informal 1:1 chats outside of scheduled classes/office hours to support students with their professional work outside of school,” he says. “This, combined with Wharton’s strong history of success and exceptional alumni network, makes Wharton’s new EMBA Global Cohort the best option for students considering a blended EMBA program.”
Guillen says Wharton intends to grow the Global program and expand its offerings.
Poets&Quants For Execs’ full composite ranking of the best U.S. EMBA programs is presented on the next two pages.
NEXT PAGE: P&Q’s Top Executive MBA programs in the U.S., No. 1-33
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