Michigan Ross Makes Big Move Into Online MBA Space

Ross Dean Scott DeRue: “We are educating our students at the intersection of business and technology”

The deadline to enroll in the new Ross Part-time Online MBA is May 20, 2019. The admission process “will be rather traditional,” Hopp says. GRE scores will be accepted in addition to GMAT; applicants will still need to present letters of recommendation and go through an interview, as they would for most part- or full-time programs. The school’s goal will be to maintain the high quality of the residential part-time programs, Hopp says, which may mean a slow start in terms of actual enrollment.

“We’re not anticipating starting with huge numbers,” he says. “We’re going to take in people that we believe can perform at the Ross level — the same caliber of students that we’re admitting into our part-time programs now. I expect that to be a smallish class for the first intake, but hopefully because we’re not geographically constrained we’ll grow that over time and be able to expand the impact and the access to a Ross education.” He adds that because of the residential component, “we would not be able to handle 1,000 students in the first cohort,” but “we have the ability to scale quickly.”

How long before the new program achieves a “steady state”?

“I think it’s going to take us three years to ramp up to a somewhat steady state. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re still growing in three years,” Hopp says. “But it’s going to take us three years to fully roll out all of the electives, all of the residential experiences, to have a real fully fleshed-out program. And by that time, once we’re three years out, we’ll start to be graduating people. I’ve launched programs in the past, and my experience is, you’re not whole until you’ve put your students into jobs.”

IN NEW PROGRAM, OLD COMMITMENT TO ‘ACTION-BASED LEARNING’

Ross officials talk a lot about action-based learning, a foundation of the school’s approach since the advent of the Multidisciplinary Action Project, or MAP, more than a quarter-century ago. MAP, in which students work in teams to find creative solutions to a company’s business challenge, is a requirement in all MBA programs offered by Ross — and that will include the new part-time online offering, as well.

“Our big mission here at Ross is to train new business leaders, and we train business leaders in all different flavors,” Hopp tells Poets&Quants. “The part-time MBA program is focused on people who are trying to study and work at the same time. And so over the years we’ve had great people in these programs who work really hard and make this connection between what they’re learning and what they’re doing at work very immediately, and so it’s really a powerful manifestation of the signature action-based learning approach to business education that Ross has defined for many years. Twenty-five years ago, we launched what we call MAP, which is a signature part of all of our MBA education, and in the part-time MBA, MAP is one way that we do action-based learning — but we also do it in the form of actually having people in their jobs putting what they’re learning in the classroom into practice.”

More than 12,000 students have participated in MAP projects in more than 98 countries since it was integrated into the Ross MBA in the early 1990s. In 2017, Ross took the learning-by-doing concept further with the creation of the Living Business Leadership Experience course that allows students to assume leadership roles in an existing company or nonprofit organization on a long-term basis.

“What we’re doing now is — just like we did 25 years ago by introducing MAP — we’re trying to push out that envelope by pushing the experiential learning, the action-based learning part of our education process even further,” Hopp says. “So we’ve introduced a new version called the Living Business Model, in which students not only work in business organizations but are accountable — they’re actually responsible for launching new business categories and doing things like that. What we’ve found is that the more we push out the experiential learning, the more we have to sort of offload the basic concept building, the canonical education part of the degree program. And so that is how we turned to technology. We didn’t just launch an online MBA in one fell swoop, we’ve been progressing toward it.”

Adds Scott DeRue, dean of the Ross School: “At Michigan Ross, we are deeply committed to preparing students for success in the ever-changing world of business. We’re delivering the same high-quality Michigan Ross education using a flexible design that brings together innovations in digital education with our deep commitment to action-based learning.”

‘BEST-KNOWN, DECORATED TEACHERS’ AMONG FACULTY IN NEW PROGRAM

The new part-time online program has three components: asynchronous self-study online modules, synchronous (group) work that takes place online, and residencies. “We have these required residences in the program where students will gather come to Ross or to some other location and we will engage them in action-based learning exercises,” Hopp says. “Some cases will involve companies and other cases will involve some of our role-playing leadership exercises that we’ve developed. And in some cases they will actually integrate with the other MBA students here at Ross. For instance, in the leadership residency, students will come back and they will engage in a crisis challenge where we present them with a fictional crisis that they have to deal with in teams — but those teams will not jut be online MBAs, they will also be Weekend MBAs or Evening MBAs or Full-time MBAs.

“This program will be very much integrated into the community of Ross and these students will not just be a distance population but will really be citizens of Ross.”

A key element of that integration: faculty. About 15 are in the initial cohort developing content, Hopp says, but there will be more going forward when electives have been established. “It will be a pretty good chunk of our faculty when all is said and done,” he says. “If you look right now at those 15 faculty, these are stars — we’ve got some of our very best-known, decorated teachers who have stood up and said, ‘I want to participate in this, this is on the leading edge, this is an important thing to be involved in.’ They’re excited. So I’m really expecting some great quality in these first courses that we’re developing because the personnel are just so talented.”

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