Credible learning experience for working professionals
E-LEARNING VIA virtual platforms add to the credibility of MBAs in DL mode
In a way it all began with two middle-aged men from Hyderabad. The Institute of Charted Financial Analysts (ICFAI), Hyderabad, was set up in 1984 by N. J. Yasaswy, a brilliant academic and Dr Besant C. Raj, a Harvard product. With its CFA programme, ICFAI was a pioneer in distance learning (DL) programme in management. IGNOU and a few others did offer MBA in DL mode before them, ICFAI gave a certain credibility by designing a high quality programme, smart delivery process and follow up. Now a host of institutions offer it with an array of credentials, MBA,MIM, CFA, PDGM,PGPM etc. Only a few like IMT-CDL, Symbiosis, ICFAI, IGNOU, AIMA and SMU find favour with students. We examine what makes them tick.
The curriculum is the king
Quality content is what differentiates good players from the rest. “Pedagogy plays an important part in education and more so in Distance Learning, even while course structure and strength are similar in regular and Distance Programmes,” says N S Ramesh Murthy, Director, SMU – Directorate of Distance Education. Dr Raj Agarwal from AIMA shares that the unique features of the AIMA PGDM are strong curriculum in tune with industry needs and blended learning with 22 hours of classroom teaching per subject. Prof. S Srilatha, Director, School of Management Studies, (SOMS), IGNOU says, “I think that the course curriculum of our programme is very strong and good enough since we undertake a comprehensive review every three years or so.”
Distance MBA becomes popular
Most of the institutes admit that in spite of increasing number of new MBA institutes in the country, the enrolment in distance MBA is increasing with a good rate. “Currently the ICFAI University has a base of above one lakh students enrolled for the distance MBA programme. The average increase in enrolled base, year on year, is about four percent for the last three years,” says Sudhakar Rao, Director, Branding & Communications, ICFAI University. “The University’s MBA Programme is keenly sought by professionals and academics alike. The growth rate has been around 15-20 percent,” says N S Ramesh Murthy, Director, SMU – DDE.
Emphasis on technology
Institutes have increased their focus on e-learning (live and recorded lectures) foundation course to improve basics in Quantitative Techniques and Economics, special sessions on soft skills, lectures on research methodology to improve project report writing and industry lectures, online case-based workshops, curated content from leanings, practitioner organizations and professional publications. These are connected to relevant precepts to enhance application-centred learning. “The real advantage of studying
through distance learning is that those who need more time and could not pace up their studies can avail of crash courses of their programmes and can become
examination-ready,” says Atul Chouhan, Chancellor, Amity University. SMU is proud of its e-learning platform edunext (www.edunext.com). Other prime players too have their own proprietary platforms. IMT-CDL has gone ahead and put their entire library online to help students browse at will.
Flexibility is the key
Most working executives favour the distance option primarily because of its flexibility. The flexibility to pursue the 3-year PGDM programme that can be completed within six years allows working professionals to enhance their skill sets and pace their learning says Dr Agarwal of AIMA. In fact, institutions like Symbiosis, and SMU offer exams throughout the year and conduct the same on holidays to suit working professionals. Online assignment submissions and telephonic academic support are some of the other tools they provide.
“I am an employee at one of the manufacturing industries in Ahmedabad. To acquire management skills, I decided to go for an MBA. However, a regular MBA programme wasn’t possible along with my job. So I decided to do Distance MBA and I joined ICFAI,” says Akbar Mirza, a student of ICFAI. Another DL student MBA shares that though the quality is better in regular MBA, the time and commitment for pursuing it is not feasible for working professionals. He says Amity (his institute) tries to bridge the gap in quality between the two while maintaining flexibility.
Enabling career progression
“MBA students are employed with well-known corporates like Airtel, Infosys, HCL and TCS and come with work experience ranging from 1 to 20 years and more. They are present in all levels of the hierarchy starting from executive to senior management, the common aspiration being the desire to grow in their career,” says Prof. Murthy from SMU-DDE. “Our students are having job profiles of all kinds; technical, marketing, information technology, systems, operations, finance, HR etc,” shares Dr N.K Dhooper, Professor Emeritus & Advisor, IMT-Centre for Distance Learning, Ghaziabad.
Focusing on fresher’s
Most institutes think that with the changes in curriculum and advancement of teaching-learning methods in distance education, fresh graduates find this programme relevant to them. Some of them argue that it is better to do MBA in DL mode from a top school rather than a regular programme from an unknown school. But work experience still remains an essential requirement for institutes like IMT-CDL Ghaziabad. Prof. Srilatha shares that according to IGNOU’s eligibility criteria only people with at least three years of work experience can take admission in the school.
Do they help in placements?
Rao from ICFAI university shares that the university organizes job fairs at various major cities. These aid current students and also those who have graduated and wish to gather valuable work experience. “SMU-DE conducts regular placement drives across India to ensure that a candidate secures the right job. By conducting over a hundred placement drives, 20,000 and more students have walked in to grab attractive job offers from top brands like Wipro, Axis Capital, Karvy, ING Vysya, Godrej & Boyce, MTS, HDFC Bank etc,” says SMU-DDE’s Prof. Murthy. Ultimately the prime motive for most aspirants is the value addition provided by an MBA credential.