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Doing an MBA: never a better time

By David Mackay - Posted on 31 March 2021

As the situation with coronavirus continues around the world, people may ask if now is the right time to do an MBA. Here, MBA Academic Director Dave Mackay says the answer is a resounding yes.

Is it a good time to do an MBA? Now more than ever before I would say. During disrupted times, leadership capabilities are required more than ever to set vision, deal with complexities and help colleagues navigate through the fog. We need people who are confident in dealing with difficult situations - the MBA builds your capabilities and confidence in decision making in these conditions.

We’ve seen many people over the past year turn businesses round and create new opportunities to face the challenges COVID has brought – and what the MBA does is it allows you to see the whole picture and react accordingly. The MBA gives you confidence to drive effective adaption when others are freezing in the face of new challenges. Really, I'd say there’s never been a better time to extract immediate value from an MBA.

You will also be gaining a new network of associates, both your MBA peers and Strathclyde alumni who are all addressing the COVID circumstances in different industries – peer learning is an important part of the MBA. Growing your professional network of high calibre peers powers up your options and potential to respond effectively and swiftly in a crisis.

It’s very easy to find leaders and managers in organisations who agree that learning is crucial for employees; what’s more interesting is when you ask them, how are you investing in your own learning? Leaders should really ask themselves: what do I need, what would help me to improve my personal effectiveness? For many, the answer to that lies with the MBA – and right now is when the value of an MBA comes to the fore.

In my opinion, there’s not much more you could do than to upskill to face this crisis head on – the MBA is more important than ever. It’s incumbent on us - MBA providers - to keep developing it, to innovate what we offer so our students are business literate in the right ways and to ensure the MBA is of value – in the current climate areas such as innovation, digital, sustainability are more important than ever and these are themes which run through our MBA along with our specific functional areas such as marketing, HRM, Finance and so on.

This year, we’ve introduced new electives and ‘put our money where our mouth is’ in terms of innovation to deal with the current COVID crisis and ensure all routes of our MBA are still receiving the MBA experience they would expect from Strathclyde.

Electives

'Digital Transformation and Technological Innovation' was offered as an MBA elective for the first time in summer 2020, building on a heritage of digital leadership electives run in the marketing department in the past – we felt this was an area of business that it was more important than ever to home in on.

We’ve enhanced our economic options to make full use of the Fraser of Allander Institute. The FAI is such a well-known name full of excellent economists doing exciting work so we want to optimise having them on hand right here in the Business School. Stuart McIntyre put together a macroeconomics elective which went down really well over the summer and we also put together an elective on microeconomics with Alex Dickson which was a firm favourite with the students. Economic analysis is so important for strategists and ramping up the options for our students in this area will help them face the global challenges which those courses help us to understand.

While we have always been able to access all the business expertise across the business school for the MBA, it’s really important to keep up to date on everything that’s going on in SBS so we can make full use of new material and up to the minute research that can be implemented into the MBA programme. For example, we are offering an elective in “Managing Organisational Mental Health & Wellbeing” this summer in response to a current major challenge facing leaders across sectors.

And this extends also to the technical excellence that exists within Strathclyde more broadly. For instance, this autumn we are launching an MBA with Shipping through our Athens MBA centre, partnering with our colleagues in NAOME as recognised global experts in shipping and marine technology.

These electives are not just for our students of course – we have an arrangement with our alumni – they can do three electives in the three years after graduation for free and it’s something I’d urge them to take advantage of.

Given feedback on what MBA students want, we’re increasing our leadership and strategy offerings, as well as improving our technology offering – that's where our Digital Transformation and Technological Innovation elective came in - and we’re running these areas as themes throughout the MBA. We’re also strengthening our Project Management element – it's far from being new to the MBA but it will be gaining increased emphasis in next year’s syllabus. 

Innovating digitally

We often hear how crucial it is to have a growth mindset in business. Frankly we don’t have a choice in how we are using digital at the moment with regard to the ongoing pandemic but while it’s a necessity, it’s also an opportunity – an opportunity to find out how best we can work with digital on the MBA programme across all our routes. Since March, our ways of working digitally have improved in countless ways. There are a number of benefits to the digital approach and we are structuring our programmes to make the most of this.

Flexibility is a key benefit for our full time programmes especially. There are more options than ever before for students in how to structure their studies and work in such a way that their life – family, schooling, interests - can be fully incorporated into those studies. There are multiple ways to engage with each topic – obviously, we have online lectures and self-study, but there’s more digital content: students can watch videos on the subject, read around the subject and online engagement tools, such as Zoom or Mentimeter, have multiple ways for people to engage such as written questions and comments, verbal engagement, individually and whole class participation. People can still be fully engaged online and our ability to deliver has grown exponentially as time has gone on.

We’ve found inclusivity has actually improved through learning digitally. You have a far greater array of tools at your fingertips to ensure you are understanding the lecture content in a way that suits you and your learning style. Academic staff’s video lectures mean students can listen at their own pace, they can rewind and listen again, as many times as they want, and read the transcript – things which just aren’t possible in a live lecture! There are also more opportunities to involve everyone in debate – sometimes in a class you find those with the loudest voices dominate the conversation but in an online scenario, we find it’s more democratic – students can write their questions for lecturers to address rather than trying to compete verbally.

Digital can bring a structure and logic to the class and we can be assured students are learning as we go – we can track what they are accessing, use analytics to tailor their experiences. If we find they’ve struggled with something, we can offer additional help with that aspect – we can’t do that in a live setting. The field of analytics is growing rapidly – we can monitor the student with digital tools and see who’s read the material, how long it took them, when they entered and left an online lecture which tells us if they sat through it all and, if not, what they missed. We can really take the temperature of the learning experience with our digital approach – it provides informative feedback and the more we do of it, the more we can increase each student's learning abilities.

Digital learning might be online but it can still be synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous learning is the parts of learning where you are engaging with tutors and peers ‘live’, while asynchronous is a mode of study where interaction is spread over time. With digital, we mustn’t assume it is all asynchronous– while we may not be face to face, the learning is still a blend of synchronous and asynchronous activity. Students can still engage with staff and their fellow students, we’re learning together – what matters most is that by making our learning digital, we are doing the most important thing: protecting the health and safety of our students and our staff.

Another benefit of digital learning is that students can easily arrange tutor drop-ins and we can have more guest lectures - and indeed guest lectures from people we may not have been able to get here before as they are so far away and might not be able to fit in a two day trip but can easily manage the one to two hours for a guest lecture or interactive session. Digital makes it possible to have more of these. Our MBA Engagement Officer Camila Zrein has been scheduling external speakers for all modules, and we are looking at how we can offer opportunities for making new connections which will feed into the future MBA too – we are all learning here and finding new ways of doing things and creating innovative learning.



Contact details

 Undergraduate admissions
 +44 (0)141 548 4114
 sbs-adviser@strath.ac.uk 

 Postgraduate admissions
 +44(0)141 553 6118 / 6119
 sbs.admissions@strath.ac.uk

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University of Strathclyde
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