Postgraduate qualifications are becoming more and more important in the contemporary business world. Unfortunately, many people do not have the time to attend the required classes, despite having the enthusiasm.
As a result, education sectors have evolved from offering only traditional face-to-face teaching and learning, to offering degrees that can be completed online.
Online programmes provide prospective students with more choice in terms of what, where and how they study. This flexibility means students can learn at their own time and pace, in a place and way that they find comfortable.
Hong Kong CyberU (HKCyberU) is a continuous education provider that was set up by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) to deliver quality e-learning programmes to the community. It is now offering a master of business administration programme (MBA) with Heriot-Watt University of UK, with the latter as the degree-conferring institute.
A significant feature of this programme is that participants can choose to study in either Chinese or English, depending on individual needs. Jack Lo, acting head of HKCyberU and MBA programme leader explains, "We offer the programme in Chinese to suit the specific needs of participants who learn more effectively in Chinese. Alternatively, one can opt for English. Although there is a choice regarding the medium of instruction, it will not be specified on the certificate awarded to graduates."
Participants are required to complete seven core courses and two electives chosen from a wide range of subjects. The programme covers key management disciplines, including people skills, economics, marketing, accounting, finance and project management. The capstone course of the programme is strategic planning, which aims to help students develop strategic thinking skills and the ability to identify and solve business dilemmas.
Unlike the past, when distance learning programmes were delivered mainly through the mail, the format is now highly interactive. The MBA programme at HKCyberU incorporates a number of Internet technologies such as email, online tutorials, chat rooms, bulletin boards, instant messaging and other forms of computer-based communication. It is ideal for people who find it difficult to attend face-to-face classes on a regular basis.
Adding to the convenience, there are no tests or coursework, a tailored design for busy executives. Student performance in each course is assessed only once, by written examination, and students can choose to sit this at any one of 350 examination centres around the globe. Moreover, all course materials can be found on the e-learning platform of the programme. In fact, Dr Lo says, the e-learning platform contains enough materials for students to pass the examinations. Though to clarify, he adds, "It is true that if you just want to get a pass in an examination, extra academic research is not required but it is needed if you want to excel."
As well as an online component, which provides learning aids such as real-time discussion chat rooms and bulletin boards to allow round-the-clock information exchange and idea sharing, the MBA programme also includes on-campus tutorials. Tutorials are staffed by PolyU's faculty and are designed to help students solve problems regarding their study. They are held on weekends and are attended voluntarily. On-campus revision classes are also in place for students preparing for exams. Dr Lo says that HKCyberU emphasises communication between faculty and students and this "blended" mode of online and face-to-face components is the most effective way of teaching and learning.
The curriculum provider, Heriot-Watt University, was established in 1821 and is one of the leading UK universities for business and industry. It holds a Royal Charter from the UK government and is an approved institute of the US Department of Education. Its MBA programme was ranked second largest in the world in a March 2007 survey by the Financial Times. Students enrolling in the MBA programme through HKCyberU, Dr Lo says, will gain tremendous international insight because the programme is developed by faculties based in the UK and other European and North American schools, and because they can interact with peers through the web-boards or online discussion groups in the more than 150 countries that the programme is delivered.
Being part of a global learning community is in fact one of the most exciting features of the programme as students have the opportunity to communicate with experts from around the world. According to information provided by Heriot-Watt University, over 40 per cent of Fortune 500 corporations have employees in the programme.
To be admitted to HKCyberU's MBA programme normally requires a first degree, though special routes based on professional qualifications are available. On completion, graduates have an internationally recognised qualification from a highly reputable university that increases their standing in the business world and allows increased competitiveness in gaining promotions. Those who want to continue their education can go on to study for the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in Strategic Focus programme also offered by HKCyberU and Heriot-Watt University.