Home' Forge : Vol 1 No 3 Contents education // 71
Dr Pete Manasantivongs, director
of global engagement at Melbourne
Business School (MBS), says there
blended offering. The challenge,
he says, is creating infrastructure
‘At many business schools, including
MBS, when applicants go through
the admission process when we
assess candidates' suitability for a
program, one of the things we put
a lot of weight on is the ability to
contribute to classroom learning.
‘A lot of that can be captured in real
time in a lecture-theatre setting,
where you have an instructor
who teaches with theory, and lots
of examples from industry and
practice. Students bring in their
insights and background. It’s harder
to replicate when you don’t have a
real-time, in-person experience.
‘If you don’t have people physically
together in the same place and at
the same time, how do you … get
the benefts of that if you are doing
a purely online MBA?'
But Vieceli says that online MBAs
are particularly important for
certain types of students.
‘Online MBAs suit expats who
have moved offshore, remote and
regional students, and those who
are truly busy, or who, for whatever
reason – such as being new to
parenthood – cannot make it in to
class,’ he says. ‘It is a great way to
open up postgraduate education
to some people who may have
been excluded. The benefts are
access to material, [and] the fact
that the quality of the experience
is so much better than it used
to be. The material is incredible,
and it is interactive; you have a
learning adviser 24 hours a day;
and the quality of the educational
experience, with the correct use of
technology, has improved to a point
that it is now a fantastic experience.’
The downside of it, he says, is that
it requires a lot of discipline, with
each subject requiring 10 hours of
focus a week.
‘Distance [learning] can
still be a lonely experience,
and it may miss some of the
higher-level networking and
bonding experiences,' Vieceli says.
‘It is getting very good, but face-to-
face still has that edge in terms of
being able to meet, greet and work
with teams of interesting people.
‘The hard thing is getting the
motivation to study consistently.
We are doing a lot of work around
getting better engagement; doing a
lot of group work.’
‘The lovely thing about MBAs is
networking and getting to meet
people at a similar or higher
level, and talking through your
plans, ambitions and goals. That
can be more diffcult in an online
environment, so what we try to do
is engage them much more – make
sure they know that we are there.
‘It can be very isolating, especially if
you're in a remote or regional area.'
Vieceli says that online MBAs
have evolved massively in recent
years. An online MBA, he says,
is no longer about getting access
to a data warehouse of notes on
‘It’s much more thematically
derived now,’ he says. ‘There are
really good learning advisers, and
when we design the material, we
sit down with our design people
and design the material to be
‘We get a whole team of experts in
to make sure that the material
we are delivering in class is the
material that will be delivered
online – but in a way that’s
understandable and digestible in
an online environment.'
The idea, Vieceli says, is to make
online learning as effective and as
interactive as it is in a classroom.
‘We have learning advisers on call 24
hours a day. Each learning adviser
takes care of only 25 students, and
we check on student progress and
understanding. The subject material
is designed to be learned and
absorbed online. We work with
amazing learning designers to make
the material as online-friendly as
possible, and it has come a long way
since the early online.'
He says that online learning is an
important component of MBA
‘There will always be a need for
online, because of the nature of
MBA students,’ he says. ‘They work
incredibly hard, and they're mobile.'
But the big trend, he says, is
for MBA schools to develop
‘We’re talking about online with
the ability to do intensive sessions
where you come in and meet with
people,’ he says. ‘So you might do
some subjects online, and you might
do other subjects face to face.'
Once treated as a data warehouse,
online MBA learning is now much
more interactive. MBA schools are
trying to make it as engaging as
classrooms. As Vieceli says, it's a
space to watch.
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