Sheri McKillop at Sandermoen School of Business

Our MBA applicants are primarily early to mid-career individuals.  We require that they have an undergraduate degree as well as at least one year of work experience.  Our EMBA applicants are typically further along professionally and are looking to take their careers to the next level.  We require our applicants to have an undergraduate degree as well as five years of work experience.  Of those five years at least two must be in a management role.  

Sheri McKillop at Sandermoen School of Business

What are the characteristics you are looking for in applicants?

Our MBA applicants are primarily early to mid-career individuals.  We require that they have an undergraduate degree as well as at least one year of work experience.  Our EMBA applicants are typically further along professionally and are looking to take their careers to the next level.  We require our applicants to have an undergraduate degree as well as five years of work experience.  Of those five years at least two must be in a management role.  

Occasionally, we have applicants to the EMBA program that do not have an undergraduate degree but may possess a college diploma.  Along with the diploma they possess significant work experience and deep management experience.  In cases such as these we can consider the applicant to the EMBA program for conditional admission. 

What sets your programme apart from other Distance Learning MBA programmes?

Our MBA program is differentiated as it is 100% online. There is no residency requirement, allowing students to complete the program from wherever they have access to the internet.  Our students have the ability to maintain their jobs and travel without being concerned that they won’t be able to make it for a residency portion of the program.  

Our students, while not having to attend a campus, do have to attend a live class every week.  This class is focused on lively discussion around the subjects that the students have studied that week.  The live class allows for debate and idea development in the same way a face to face classroom has discussion, and also provides students with valuable networking opportunities with professionals across Canada and ultimately, around the world. 

Our students have the opportunity to choose from 5 different specialty streams.  Some are broad such as Global Leadership and Innovation Leadership, and others are more niche markets such as Social Enterprise Leadership, Real Estate Leadership and Health and Safety Leadership. 

Tell us about your curriculum. How is the MBA programme structured?

Our MBA is structured first with ten core courses that cover general business knowledge that is essential for leadership in business.  Included are economics, accounting, finance, leadership, ethics, HR and others.  Once the students complete the 10 foundation courses, they enter their specialty stream courses.  There are 3 focused courses for each specialty stream.  Once the course work is completed the students enrol in an Integration Project, which provides students with the opportunity to apply the knowledge they’ve accumulated over the course of their degree.  During this project students identify a company or organization that has a business challenge or need.  In groups of three or four, they work directly with the business owners to develop a solution and assist with implementation if the company chooses.  

Our MBA courses run for 11 weeks each and our EMBA courses run for 7 weeks respectively.  Including the specialty and Integration project course the MBA can be completed in 2 – 3.5 years.  The EMBA is just over 2 years.

What advice would you offer to a person who is thinking about pursuing a Distance Learning MBA programme?

The most important skill in studying online is time management.  The majority of our students continue to work full time while studying online.  Additionally, most have families.  They need to manage their time to complete readings, engage in group work, and attend classes and complete assignments.  Work life balance is important, so students need to plan their approach and stay on top of it.  Without time management it is easy to slip behind and difficult (but not impossible) to catch up.  

As mentioned, students have a life outside of the classroom so as an institution we also must have some flexibility.  We also allow a student to take a semester off if their life is a little too hectic or other events need to take a front seat for a few months—students in each program are able to take a maximum of five years to complete their programs, which provides a degree of flexibility when required.

How have you succeeded in engaging the students having in mind that the programme is taught online? What chances do students get to interact with faculty and peers?

Our students attend a weekly live class.  This class is conducted using Cisco WebEx, a business conference platform that many of our students already have a familiarity with.  These classes offer lively debate and keep students highly engaged with both the professor and with each other.  The faculty member is present during class to shape the discussion and guide learning.  

Students are expected to do a great deal of group work in our programme.  This requires interacting and developing skills with fellow classmates to organize and deliver assignments in an online world.  This process also helps keeps students highly interactive, enabling them to build working relationships with their peers as you would in a typical bricks-and-mortar classroom.  

Online forum postings are also used to keep students interactive during the duration of the course.  Students must post ideas and responses on the forum and are then guided to respond to other students and engage in discussion or debate. 

Faculty are readily available for email or skype conversations with students during the duration of their class. Students are required to give online student feedback at the conclusion of the course that allows us to monitor engagement.

Do you provide the same resources during the Distance Learning MBA as the on-campus programme?

University of Fredericton is a solely online university.  We do not have a campus.  We live, eat and breathe online education.  Our online programs are not an off-shoot of a face-to-face program.  As a result, we have designed the program for a total online delivery.  Our resources and supports are fully geared to the online student. 

How is your Distance Learning MBA programme evolving to match the dynamics of business environments around the world?

With the structure of our specialty streams we have the advantage of being able to react and adapt to opportunities in the business world.  We develop most of our specialty streams with an industry partner to ensure we are giving our students the skills they will need to be successful in their specialty area.  Additionally, we can develop new streams in a timely and reactive fashion.  For example, we have identified a lack of Business Analytic MBA programs and are in the process of putting together a specialty stream in that area.

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