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September 19, 2013

Flex MBA Gets Underway: New Program Mixes Online Learning With In-Person Weekends

Thirty graduate students from across North America have embarked on a new avenue in business education. The Tepper School’s Flex MBA program begins this fall as one of the world’s first top-tier business curriculums to be offered in a flexible “hybrid” format — part online, part on-site.

“The appeal of FlexMBA is that now professionals in any geographic region can pursue a top-level MBA education without relocating, which may otherwise be prohibited by their current job or family situation,” said Kelly R. Wilson, executive director of admissions at the Tepper School. “It is a way for students in virtually any location to experience the same curriculum and faculty as they would in the school’s full- and part-time MBA programs. That is an attractive option for someone who lives and works in a geographic area that is not accessible by traditional means.”

In stark contrast to current educational trends that are building increasingly larger (mass) online classes, the FlexMBA approach is designed to deliver the MBA program to focused sections of 20-30 students, who interact frequently with faculty, alumni, school resources, and each other online and in person. Although the experience will be slightly different than attending all of one’s classes on campus, the curriculum, access to leadership coaching and other university resources, and the standards required for graduation remain the same.

“There are no asterisks associated with this diploma,” said Robert Monroe, director of the FlexMBA program and associate teaching professor of business technologies. “Admission and graduation require the same high standards that we hold for our on-campus MBA formats, and students follow the same curriculum taught by the exact same faculty. Face-time and personalization are critical components of business education. We will utilize technology to deliver appropriate components of the curriculum and will engage our access weekends to spur group learning and interaction.”

Access weekends will occur at the end of each mini-semester — approx-imately five each year — when class sections will gather on a Carnegie Mellon campus to interact with alumni and student services, to complete exams, work in teams and begin new class instruction for their next courses. The inaugural class began coursework for their first two classes in Pittsburgh in August and will conclude these courses during an access weekend in Silicon 
Valley in October.

“Access weekends are unique in that they physically bring together students with faculty, student services and they also include alumni,” Monroe said. “We believe this will greatly help remotely-based students get connected and stay connected with the larger school community, and will help us to engage our strengths in alumni and corporate partners.

“Furthermore, being flexible in location will enable us to connect with multiple geographic areas during the course of the program. Areas including New York, and Washington, D.C., are currently being considered for the future access weekends,” he added.

The FlexMBA program draws on the Tepper School’s nearly 20 years of experience conducting distance learning programs and replaces the Flex Mode MBA program, which was primarily corporate-centric. While utilizing new technologies to deliver content, the program embraces the importance of consistency, high-standards, accountability and maximizing student interaction. The Tepper School admissions team has already begun recruiting the next class of MBA 

— by Mark Burd,