Online mastery

by Maggie Tang

Jack Lo, acting head and programme leader
Hong Kong CyberU
Photo: Nolly Leung

World's second largest online MBA lets students call the shots

Most organisations today strive for improved performance in the face of increasingly intense competition. Quality people are therefore essential to drive successful corporations forward and an increasing premium is now placed on employees with the requisite organisational skills.

In this regard, an MBA qualification is becoming increasingly valued as the learning process nurtures comprehensive business skills. It also offers a better understanding of the operational side of an organisation and how different functions are interrelated. The resulting macro view of the contemporary business environment which students are able to visualise is a springboard towards promotion to a managerial role.

One Hong Kong institution providing web-based educational programmes is Hong Kong CyberU (HKCyberU), an affiliate of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). The HKCyberU programmes differ from typical online options because a "blended mode" of study is on offer. This combines the flexibility of web-based learning with face-to-face tutorials. Jack Lo, MBA programme leader remarks, "We are seeing a growing demand for our programmes. More working adults now value online learning as a cost-effective way to attain academic aspirations."

International connectivity

HKCyberU currently offers programmes which lead to both PolyU and non-local academic awards. One successful programme is the online MBA programme jointly offered with Heriot-Watt University in the UK. "We are delighted to have Heriot-Watt University as our partner. The university has a history of more than 150 years. It is one of the leading UK universities for business and industry. Its online MBA programme has been ranked the second largest globally by the Financial Times. Students from various regions are enrolled, making the programme a truly international learning platform," Dr Lo explains.

Students can enrol in the Heriot-Watt University's online MBA programme at HKCyberU. While the former is the curriculum provider and degree-conferring institute, the latter provides face-to-face tutorials conducted by PolyU's faculty and an array of learning resources such as library access.

Tutorials are held at weekends and attendance is voluntary. A recent graduate of the programme, Yeung Man-wai, was particularly fond of the tutorials, "Lecturers gave us lots of guidance. We had the opportunity to exchange ideas and network with other students. This blended mode of learning enriched the online learning experience," Ms Yeung reveals.

In addition, Ms Yeung says the programme broadened her international perspectives, "I could interact with peers from more than 150 countries through the web-boards or online discussion groups."

One notable feature of the programme is the choice of study medium, which is either Chinese or English for each of the courses. Choosing the optimal linguistic medium of instruction ensures students gain the most thorough understanding of the course content and degree certificates distributed at the end of the programme make no reference to which language was chosen.

Participants complete seven core courses and two electives from a wide range of subjects. The programme covers key management disciplines including strategic planning, economics, marketing, accounting, finance, people management and project management. The curriculum is developed by faculties based in the UK and other European and North American academic institutions which track the latest international developments and incorporate findings into the course material.

Total control

To facilitate the learning process for busy executives, performance in each course is assessed by a written test. Examination sessions are held four times a year at more than 350 centres around the world. Students study at their own pace, sitting examinations when they feel confident enough to pass.

Ms Yeung chose to take the Heriot-Watt online MBA programme to upgrade her existing qualifications and learn skills rarely acquired in the workplace. Moreover, the online learning mode complemented her professional schedule. "I am a nursing professional so I work shifts. Ordinary face-to-face programmes are not feasible options. Web-based learning is the most efficient way to achieve my objectives. If I want to advance in my career, a master's degree and general management knowledge are a must," she says.

Admittance to the MBA programme usually requires a first degree or relevant professional qualifications. Those with neither but who possess an impressive career portfolio are admitted on the condition they pass three courses prior to being admitted to the programme officially.

A maximum of two exemptions from core courses may be granted for previous relevant academic or professional qualifications. Participants may also claim Continuous Education Fund (CEF) reimbursements for some of the courses.

"An MBA supports both career development and personal growth. Studying an MBA equips you with the capability to embrace responsibilities at higher levels," concludes Dr Lo.

Mix and match

  • Online mode for study anytime anywhere
  • English or Chinese tutorial option
  • CEF reimbursement possible
  • Students opt to take exams when they feel ready

Taken from Career Times 28 March 2008
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