Going beyond the four walls of the classroom

Online postgraduate degrees are now more accessible than ever, thanks to advancements in technology

Murdoch University's Executive Master in Leadership, Strategy and Innovation is the first entirely-online postgraduate degree in Singapore. PHOTO: ISTOCK
Murdoch University's Executive Master in Leadership, Strategy and Innovation is the first entirely-online postgraduate degree in Singapore. PHOTO: ISTOCK

There’s been no better time than now to get a postgraduate degree online.

As technology changes and evolves, so are our classrooms. With course material in the cloud, streamed lectures and consultation sessions via Skype, students of tomorrow may even find themselves leaving their houses only for their graduation ceremonies. 

While previously only the purview of private institutions, more and more public institutions are providing online postgraduate degrees, in recognition of the fact that the market for students hoping to simultaneously work and study is getting steadily larger by the day. 

For students, the benefits of a degree are manifold. Most pertinent is the ability for students to be able to customise their learning at their own pace. Online degrees are often self-paced, meaning that students can complete the coursework and assignments within a suitable timeframe — eschewing the breakneck pace of a traditional degree. 

By the same token, students also have the liberty to create their own learning space — be it at home, or in a café, or wherever they best feel they can learn — which will be optimally conducive for their personal education.

Simply because they are online does not mean that they give up the traditional benefits of a classroom either. Oftentimes, a large part of online degrees’ class participation is through open discussion on online forums or other virtual platforms, letting students receive a classroom-based seminar experience without actually having to be in one. 

A boon to employers

Still, while online postgraduate degrees have come a long way in recent years, a stigma against online degrees still remains, with some employers sceptical of the quality control afforded by an online degree. 

But contrary to popular belief, this scepticism is not universal. A 2010 study conducted by CNN concluded that 83 per cent of employers viewed online postgraduate degrees as having equal legitimacy as conventional degrees, so long as they were properly accredited.

Furthermore, some employers are now seeing online postgraduate degrees as a plus point. “People who do online programmes usually have a wealth of experience, work full-time and balance the demands of their position with the MBA,” says Ms Kathryn Lee, human resources director for North America at Fiat Chrysler in an interview with the Financial Times. 

“They display qualities that are important in people we hire — a strong work ethic, project management and critical thinking skills.”

Mr Chris Vennitti, president of staffing firm HireStrategy, says that many employers would view online students’ ability to balance a full-time job with a part-time degree as a positive.

He also points out that strong time management “illustrates a drive to further both an education and career”.

“It’s very appealing to an employer,” he says. 

And speaking of appealing to employers, a compelling reason to apply for an online postgraduate degree is to improve one’s education qualifications without having to leave the workforce — a task made much easier with an online degree.

Enter Murdoch University’s Executive Master in Leadership, Strategy and Innovation (E-learning). Facilitated by Kaplan in Singapore, it is the first postgraduate programme in Singapore to be entirely online.

“They told us that a programme that went beyond the traditional confines of business administration is what was wanted,” says Murdoch Singapore’s deputy dean and director Dr Christopher Vas. “A crosscutting, theme based and workplace relevant programme was asked for, and that is exactly what we have curated.”

Dr Vas emphasises that the online programme will not merely relay static content, but rather, make use of technologies like web conferencing solution Blackboard Collaborate to facilitate student engagement with their facilitator and peers. 

Adapting to change

But Murdoch University is not simply moving the classroom into a virtual space — they are adapting their approach to education to suit the changing needs of the leaders of today. Rather than simply ensuring that employees meet key performance indicators, leadership in business management is about keeping followers engaged in their pursuit of a common goal, being open to adopting new technologies, and having the tenacity to forge ahead in an uncertain world.

With equal emphasis on leadership dynamics, market strategic value analysis and stakeholder governance, the new Executive Master (E-learning) programme is geared squarely at nurturing the business leaders of tomorrow. 

 “Today, leaders need to think and work globally,” says Dr Vas. “Innovation and integration are now leadership imperatives that lead us to ask business, government and academia the question: ‘What kind of development do the leaders of tomorrow actually need?’”

Slated to have its first intake in April this year, the Executive Master’s fully-online curriculum means that students will have the flexibility to fit their studies around their full-time job. This ensures that they will be able to improve their skill sets without having to sacrifice their professional life — or their family life, for that matter.  

The online nature of the programme gives its students the global experience that other universities do, letting like-minded students from all around the world share their global perspectives and cultivate discussions — with none of the expense. 

But for those who wish to take their global experience a step further, the programme’s International Immersion component will let them meet other members of their cohort for a three-day workshop in one of Murdoch University’s international nodes: Berlin, Dubai, Singapore or Perth.

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