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What does it take to run the best online MBA in the world?

Dot Powell, Director of Teaching and Learning Enhancement, Warwick Business School

For five years running, Warwick Business School’s (WBS) Distance Learning MBA has been number one in the Financial Times ranking of online MBAs globally – an accolade we are incredibly proud of. Our Distance Learning MBA has been running for more than 30 years and has built its reputation on a strong balance between theory and practice, and a commitment to going beyond the classroom. 

What is the secret to our success? Ultimately, it comes down to those behind the scenes. The faculty, learning designers, media team, publishing team and administrators, collaborating together to support our students. Using their creativity to think outside of the box in how we can innovate in the space, utilising technologies like Otter.ai to deliver course content in an interactive and engaging manner.

Delivering learning experiences requires teamwork

Running any higher education course requires a dedicated team. Everybody from those registering and enrolling students, to creating the syllabus, and then teaching the course, plays a key role in the success of a programme. At WBS, teamwork underpins our achievements.

In the March 2022 edition of the Financial Times‘ ranking, graduates from the Distance Learning MBA praised our online platform and programme materials, careers service, and support available in developing start-ups in their feedback, which is all testament to the team behind the course. 

We take a collaborative approach from top to bottom to support students, run the online programme day-to-day, and design content that gives our pupils the best learning experience. This not only makes our Distance Learning MBA a great programme, but enables us to tap into the creativity of each of our colleagues to find ways in which we can elevate the course further.

Innovating in course delivery

As an online programme, our bread and butter is the content we deliver to students to engage them in the course and enable them to succeed in their studies. While the programme does include two weeks of face-to-face learning, the majority is remote, so we have to think outside of the box when it comes to creating interactive content to allow students to immerse themselves in the course – just providing textbooks to read and digest is not enough.

As such, we’ve built technology into the foundations of the programme. Learning content is primarily made up of live lectures and pre-recorded video content, which can be anything from interactive case studies to on-location filming and interviews. In fact, we believe that this holistic approach to content has the potential to provide as valuable an experience as face-to-face learning, as we’re able to take students far beyond the lecture hall.

But as I said, interactivity is key. We have integrated Otter.ai, the AI-powered notetaking and collaboration tool, into our content creation processes to elevate our capabilities and provide multi-modality. We use Otter to automatically transcribe and provide live captions for all of our pre-recorded content, allowing students to absorb learning in whatever way suits them best. Whether that is learning through watching a video, listening with subtitles, or even just reading a transcript, we empower them with the choice through technology.

With just 23 of us in the team, creating around 800 videos each year for 1,500+ students on the Distance Learning MBA, and assisting faculty across Warwick Business School more widely with videos for the 5000+ students that attend the School, we wouldn’t be able to offer this variety of content without technology like Otter.ai. We’ve saved hundreds of hours by automating the transcription process and being able to free up our time and resources means we can continuously look for more ways to create richer content for our students. 

Green screens and live streaming studios are already in use during video creation, but investing in an immersive presentation environment is our next project. This works as an extended reality stage which will enable us to provide a live-lecture experience that is immersive and encourages participation.

Our goal with technology is to provide students with the best blended learning experience possible, whether it’s elevating our production abilities or delivering interactive and accessible content through tools like Otter.ai.

Making our online MBA a platform for all 

Delivering on our commitment to giving students choice when it comes to how they access the course certainly sets WBS apart, and being guided by the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles contributes to our number one online MBA status.

UDL principles push us to go a step beyond accessibility and embrace a way of thinking that enables us to give all students an equal opportunity to succeed. The average age of those on our course is 36, and we find that students come from various walks of life and often have additional commitments away from their studies, whether that’s a family or full/part-time employment, for example. 

We use the three main principles of UDL throughout the design process of the course:

  1. Representation – UDL recommends providing content in more than one format, giving students the chance to access materials in a way which suits their learning strengths. Video content is a strong feature of the course, but with Otter.ai, we are able to provide a text-based version of the video content. In addition to this, we provide hands-on learning during the required face-to-face elements of the course.
  2. Action and expression – UDL suggests a programme with varied interaction opportunities. With technology, we’re able to give learners many ways to interact with the course, whether that’s accessing our online portal to ask questions and collaborate with peers, watching our rich selection of video content, or revising with transcribed materials.
  3. Engagement – UDL encourages varied learning styles to boost student engagement. We pride ourselves on the variety of content we create for the Distance Learning MBA, whether it’s a live lecture from the university or a pre-recorded case study on location, our students get a varied experience to support their learning.

What does it take to run the best online MBA in the world?

The WBS Distance Learning MBA didn’t become the best overnight, to reach this point we have built a well-oiled machine behind the scenes. There’s no one secret to our success, but by committing to collaboration and empowering our team, utilising tools like Otter.ai that can help us to scale, and striving to understand how we can best serve our students with methodologies like UDL, we have been able to create a fantastic learning experience which helps our graduates to succeed.

By Dot Powell, Director of Teaching and Learning Enhancement, Warwick Business School

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