For many contemporary managers the hectic nature of today’s corporate life means they often do not know where they will be from week to week. Geographical boundaries are receding as managers travel to different continents to supervise their businesses, often within a 24-hour period. Those seeking to upgrade their skills need an MBA programme allowing them to follow their own studies without giving up work. An MBA delivered in a flexible part-time learning format is the ideal solution.  Part-time learning – programmes that enable students to combine work and degree studies - has evolved in several different formats.

Understanding the diversity of part-time MBA formats

Flexible learning focuses on offering students choices about when, where and how they learn. It is about accessing education in a way that is responsive in pace, place and/or mode of delivery. Flexible learning meets the needs of a diverse range of students, enables part-time study that could be attractive for sponsors, allows students to combine work, study and family and offers students the chance to develop skills and attributes to successfully meet change. Such formats include remote or online study, work-based learning, part-time, or blended learning.

In recent years, flexible learning formats have gained popularity. Many business schools have started to tailor their programmes to the needs of busy professionals, developing virtual learning courses and adapting their teaching methods to cater to the hectic schedules of contemporary managers. MBA programmes have become more and more flexible. Business schools that have moved with the times and offer flexible learning MBAs, include IE Business SchoolWarwick Business SchoolManchester Business School, and others.

Business schools offering MBAs in a flexible format have blazed the trail for this new teaching method. Unlike traditional programmes, characterised by face-to-face classes and interaction, virtual teaching is available through a wide variety of online resources – video conferencing, online classes, live HD quality video lectures, webinars, live chat sessions with tutors, mentors and classmates, online presentations, videos and reading materials, online libraries and e-journals and forums for networking and sharing ideas and experiences as well as special platforms developed by schools particularly for the programmes, etc.

Online MBA

Online MBAs are a form of a flexible learning for MBAs where classes are held exclusively online. Online MBAs allow attendees to keep their full-time jobs, providing the flexibility they need to balance their study, job and family responsibilities. The format requires exceptional dedication and self-motivation, because you don’t have to be physically present. This can be problematic considering life’s numerous distractions and responsibilities. At the same time, online MBAs are arguably the most flexible MBA format out there, since they can be done at any time, at any location.

Online learning provides immediate benefits for your personal development; you are able to apply your learning to your workplace straight away. […] Your employer will also be able to see immediate business improvement as they benefit from the application of the skills you are developing,” says UK’s Newcastle University Business School.

Blended MBA

MBA programmes offered in blended formats are an ideal choice for those who can’t quit their jobs to dedicate a year or two to their studies. Blended learning MBAs successfully combine the advantages of online and on-campus learning. Their innovative format integrates online classes, face-to-face sessions at school campuses and virtual collaboration, allowing students to maximise their time, learning, networks and investment. Key exams and presentations are nevertheless delivered face-to-face, including in-person assessments to measure students’ progress.

Studying for a full-time MBA was out of the question due to the cost implication of not having a job,” says Romina Oxborough, a Warwick Business School (WBS) distance learning MBA. “But I did not want to miss out on the face-to-face interaction with a faculty, and the chance to build a network. WBS offered the possibility of doing both.

Spain’s IE Business School is one of the world’s leaders in distance blended learning MBAs. It offers multiple MBAs in a blended format featuring online classes and short, face-to-face sessions. The school’s 15-month Global MBA combines interactive online teaching via video conferences and debate forums with several options of short, face-to-face sessions at the school’s campus in Madrid.

Check out: Overview of the Various MBA Programmes

The blended format has been able to offer the same quality of a classroom programme but without the hassle of having to travel weekly to school, or change jobs or city,” says IE Global MBA graduate Leila Pinto.

We know that circumstances sometimes change: weddings, babies, or promotion can knock you off track. Sometimes taking longer to complete your studies might be the best way to get what you want in the long term and we’re here to help you achieve your aims,” WBS adds.

The Flexible Learning MBA from Strathclyde Business School is a similar case. Students, on joining the course, are provided with a recommended study timetable, which schedules the programme completion over three years. “Being flexible, this timetable is not set in stone,” the school says. Therefore, should a student wish to fast-track and complete the MBA course in less than three years, the school can suggest an alternative study schedule. Alternatively, should a student wish to take a bit longer to complete their MBA, the school permits studies for up to a maximum of six years.

Part-time MBA

Part-time MBA programmes are ideal for students living near the university campus, without the time or resources to dedicate a full year to studying. MBA candidates in big cities and capitals have the luxury of choosing part-time MBA programmes from established institutions nearby. Proximity is considered a prerequisite for part-time studies, because part-time MBAs focus on fitting in with the schedules of busy managers without sacrificing time spent in face-to-face contact. Usually, part-time programmes are offered in two formats - a regular part-time MBA, and a modular MBA. The latter has evolved into the Blended MBA, offering a mix of on-campus classes and online learning. The regular format consists of one or two evening sessions per week in addition to roughly 15 hours a week of independent study, preparation and group work.

Executive MBA

The Executive MBA (EMBA) is in a league of its own. It caters to would-be executives with 10+ years of managerial experience. It must be inherently flexible, because it makes the assumption that no manager can afford to give up work for a whole year at this stage of their career.

Check out: Nine Steps to Choosing the Right MBA for You

Executive MBA programmes are modular in nature, closely resembling the blended format by combining online study with face-to-face lectures. They can last anywhere from 12 months to over two years.

The most appealing format is the Global EMBA, where participants travel to various international locations to get a taste of how business is carried out around the world. Naturally, this requires a stronger commitment, but executives often find it more rewarding in terms of learning.

This is also where group-learning comes into play. EMBA programmes generally have a strong focus on team-based learning and participants learning from each other. Case studies are employed in such a way that they become a platform for discussion.

So should you choose a flexible learning MBA and why? If you can’t devote yourself to full-time education, the answer is a resounding “yes”. You will be able to experience the MBA at your own pace, at your chosen location, and still get a degree that can catapult you to new career heights.

This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2016-2017 annual Access MBA, EMBA and Masters Guide under the title “No Time for Full-Time”. An online version of the Guide is available here.