Before the pandemic, hybrid already hit the radar at the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business.
“Our market research revealed that students in Colorado and outside of our state wanted more flexibility,” says Lori Seward, teaching professor and faculty director of the MBA Program at the school.
The school began piloting hybrid courses in 2019 in its Evening MBA Program. Those efforts, plus student and faculty feedback, led to the design of its new hybrid EMBA Program, which launched its first class in August.
The 21- month hybrid program includes about equal parts asynchronous and in-person delivery. The program begins with an in-person orientation. Students then complete six weeks of asynchronous course work, followed by a seven-day in-person residency on campus, and repeat that schedule — sans the orientation — two additional times in the first year. They also participate in a synchronous Zoom class three weeks before each in-person residency to help supplement the connections that take place during the in-person residencies.
At the start of the second year, students meet again in-person, with a final residency planned for an international location. The design helps maximize relationship-building among students.
“Our experience with the traditional model showed that much of the cohort bonding actually takes place outside of the classroom when students are working together on cases and projects,” says Seward.
“Students will still engage with their classmates and professors during the pre-residency period with their weekly activities. But during the residency, students will have time throughout days and evenings to create the relationships that are important for EMBA students. The seven-day residency is where students work together without the distractions of work and family, thus creating the unique networking experience the students want.”
With Canvas as the online platform, faculty worked with an instructional design partner to convert their teaching materials, emphasizing active engagement and collaboration among students and between students and faculty during the asynchronous part of the course. Faculty also created high-quality video content that ties directly to class activities such as reading assignments, homework quizzes, and group projects.
Market response has been strong, and the school continues to invest in hybrid. Leeds recently introduced a hybrid version of its Evening MBA Program and delivers two successful master’s programs online.
Seward sees many upsides and few downsides to the new hybrid EMBA Program, in large part because of the attention to ensuring engagement among faculty, students, and the business community throughout the program.
“Demand for this type of program flexibility will grow,” says Seward. “The market was already asking for this before the pandemic and now that folks have experienced the flexibility of remote work, they will continue to expect these options.”