Future You podcast transcript

Online MBA (with University of Liverpool)

April, 2023

On this episode we speak to Dr Lisa Day, Director of Online Programmes for the Management School and Director of Studies for the Online MBA at the University of Liverpool


In order of first appearance:

  • Dan Mason - editorial manager, Prospects
  • Dr Lisa Day - Director of Studies for the Online MBA at the University of Liverpool


Dan Mason: If you have management experience and you're ambitious to make progress in your career as a leader, the University of Liverpool's online MBA could be just what you're looking for. Find out more in this episode of Future You. Hello, and welcome to Future You the podcast from graduate careers experts Prospects. We're here to help you achieve your career goals. My name is Dan Mason, and in this episode, we're going to talk about MBAs. The Master of Business Administration is a highly regarded postgraduate qualification for those of you who have got some experience as a manager, and are ready to take your career to the next level. Lisa Day is director of online programs and director of studies online MBA at the University of Liverpool, and she is going to give us more background on the qualification itself. Before telling us in detail about the University of Liverpool's own online MBA program. Don't forget to subscribe to Future You in your podcast app, and head to prospects.ac.uk for more on this topic, but for those of you with ambitions for a high flying business career, here's Lisa, to tell you more.

Lisa Day: Hi, yes, I'm Dr Lisa Day I'm director of online programs at the University of Liverpool Management School. And I'm also director studies for the online MBA.

Dan Mason: Well, thank you so much for joining us today for this episode. You're going to be talking primarily about the online MBA there at Liverpool. But before we get into the detail of that, could you just give us an introduction to what an MBA is for anyone who doesn't know?

Lisa Day: Yes, of course. So the MBA or Masters in Business Administration is quite different to any other Masters program. It originated at Harvard University back in 1908 but today the MBA is offered in universities all over the world. And it's developed into one of the most popular and sought after management qualifications by students but also by employers. So it's a post experience qualification. And that means it's only really open to students with some existing management experience. However, the good side is that as well as learning from academics, you also really learn from your fellow students because they come from all over the world. And they bring a rich range of practical experience and expertise that they can share with you. So peer discussion, collaborative, experiential learning, is a real key part of any MBA program. So an MBA program provides a broad education in key areas of management like strategy, digital marketing, sustainable and responsible leadership, finance, data analytics. But a lot of what you learn is from sharing experiences of the students, and also just from critically reflecting on your own management experiences. It may be it's because of its roots at Harvard, but the MBA has always been a program that's had this sort of prestige. So typically, managers want to graduate from top schools such as Harvard, you know, or from a UK Russell Group University, such as University of Liverpool are triple accredited by Amba, EQUIS, and AACSB. And also, the Liverpool program was recently ranked as a top 10 online program by the Financial Times, which put it alongside some of the best programs in the world.

Dan Mason: So you've talked a little bit there about the importance of the prestige of an MBA and also touched on the fact that it's for people with a little bit of management experience already. Could you go into more detail about what type of students this course is for?

Lisa Day: Yes, of course, I think the MBA really is best suited to students who want to progress their careers. So perhaps they want to move from mid level managerial role to a senior management role, or maybe to change for more specialist role like engineering into a more general managerial role, or to do something completely different, like start their own business, become an entrepreneur or a management consultant. And we ask that students have a minimum of three years experience in some type of managerial role. So it could be managing teams or managing projects or budgets. But many students have more and the current average on the program is 11 years experience and you can look at the details on the website, you can see more about the entry criteria. So students on the program but typically, mid career managers are professionals from a really wide variety of backgrounds like IT, engineering, marketing, and from lots of different sectors like oil and gas, charities, you know, from the public sector such as education. So, the online program it typically attracts people who have complex lives, you know, for example, they have a full time job and children or caring responsibilities. It's really just not practical for them to give up their full time job and to study on a full time program, they might have considered perhaps a part time on campus program. But when you factor in the travel time, and additional costs, such as travel and accommodation costs online just makes more sense. I'm not really sure why maybe it's something about the nature of study online that makes it attractive. But over a third of students on the Liverpool online MBA program are women. So I completed my own MBA part time, but it was 1999/2000. And the Liverpool online program didn't launch until 2001. So I studied on a campus program, but that was over 20 years ago. If I was choosing again today, I’d definitely study online.

Dan Mason: And I imagine from what you've said there about being a minimum three years experience and average 11. I think you said that one of the really important elements of this kind, of course, is the other people on the course that you're going to exchange ideas with and you know, learn alongside. What sort of networking opportunities do you get on a course, particularly an online course where that might, you know, people might perceive that might be more difficult that networking aspect of it?

Lisa Day: That's absolutely right. The networking is really important. And there are lots of networking opportunities. Every class has around 20 students who are all experienced managers. And the program encourages what we call active learning, you know, such as exchanging ideas and online written discussions, or in live seminar sessions. And that all helps with networking and building relationships with other students. Then we've got more experiential modules like the strategic management simulation, or the innovation and entrepreneurship module, where students work much more collaboratively in small teams. And then you really get to know each other. So students use tools like Slack, WhatsApp, or zoom to talk to each other things that we all use every day. And no they may not meet physically, not until graduation. But then we see them when we're at graduation, we see them hugging each other and talking. And it's just so obvious that they become really good friends. But we also have, we have the management and practice module, where students take part in three executive project weeks that spread across the program. And these start with a live guest speaker, the most recent one we had was about ethics and artificial intelligence. And during the project weeks, students work in small groups, but they work with students from across the whole program. So you might have completed six modules, you're in a group with someone you've never met, who's only done one module. So that provides a really different networking experience. And we also have careers events where we invite the on campus MBA students as well as the online.

Dan Mason: So it sounds like the fact that the course is online, you know, is still very much those networking opportunities are there. But going back to the point about it being for graduates who already have experience, some people might be listening thinking well what's really the value of going back to university for this kind of course? Could you talk about how an MBA helps graduates to progress their careers? What's the value of in that sense?

Lisa Day: Yes, of course, I've already said the MBA is a prestigious and respected qualification that's really valued by employers. But it's not just valued because of its history, or it's just another piece of paper. It's really valued, because employers know that graduates will have developed a really broad range of management knowledge and skills. And employers also know that the MBA is quite a challenging program, particularly with part time, it really shows employers that you're capable of taking on challenges capable of managing your time working productively, and effectively, either on your own or as part of a team.

So in many ways, I tend to think of an MBA as a form of signaling, you're making an investment in yourself, and you're telling the rest of the world you're ambitious, looking to progress your career. And you might assume that other people already know that, but often they don't and then when you tell them, you're doing a top MBA program, they really get the message. But for me, actually, the most important advantage of a part time MBA is that you can put what you learn into practice immediately. So it means that often the positive impact on students career progression comes really quickly before they've even finished the program. So people who are doing a part time MBA they're noticed because they're asking more interesting questions in a meeting, or they’re suggesting great ideas to their manager because of something they've been exploring in class that week. Or maybe just because they're that bit more confident.

Dan Mason: That’s really interesting what you say there about it being a different experience studying part time and the extra value that adds.You’ve obviously spoken quite a bit about the online nature of the course. But let's get into that a bit more specifically. Can you tell us more about the experience of studying online.?

Lisa Day: Okay, so perhaps the most important thing to tell you or prospective students about studying online is that the Liverpool online MBA starts with two week induction. It's really important because before you're doing graded assignments, you learn about the basics, such as how to access the library, how to use real world examples and reading to support your ideas. So the online induction classroom is supported by an experienced lecturer. And you'll also meet the other students who have started the program at the same time as you, you submit a short assignment and you get some feedback. So hopefully, by the time you start the assessed modules, you should have really gained a bit of confidence, which is great. And a typical module last six weeks, and even a class I said about 20 students with a lecturer who's an expert in their field, and they provide guidance and feedback. So the students study one module at a time. And not all modules, but most of them have two small assessments in week two and four, around 500 words, and then a bigger assessment in week six of about 2,000 words. But there's a really wide range of assessments for the main assessment, it could be a slide deck report, or a narrated video presentation, rather than a written report. So assessments are designed to be authentic. And that means they're similar to real activities that managers undertake in the workplace.

So the program, it's mostly asynchronous, and that means that all the learning materials are available, so you can engage with them at any time and place to suit whatever you need. And that usually helps to combine study with family, work and travel commitments. So the module week starts on a Tuesday. And students typically start by working through what we call the weekly lecture cast. It's sort of similar to an on campus face to face lecture of about two hours. However, because we're doing online delivery, these can be delivered in more engaging bite sized chunks, where we use multimedia audio, video, text and quizzes, and the learning materials that are all based on research from world renowned academics from the University of Liverpool's Management School, and from the latest management thinking from around the globe. So after they've worked with the lecture cast, the students complete an activity that involves other students. And that might be a submission to a discussion board, say on a Friday, and a response to a fellow students submission on the following Monday. So whilst the program is mostly asynchronous, there are some live sessions. And that's where students meet online with a lecturer at a particular time. And these are normally run twice, because we need to suit different time zones. So in a typical module, that's usually a one hour live session in week one. And that's the kind of welcome session, and then another one in week three. And in week five. The module lectures also host what we call office hours, often via online conferencing, such as Zoom, so that students can talk to them, and the Student Support Team. And that's available by phone or by email, to provide academic and more pastoral support. So typically, in a week, students are expected to study about 15 to 20 hours. So this will include the lecture cast, the activities, the wider reading, and working on assessments. It's quite intensive so you know, students do need self discipline, and good time management, but it's also very engaging. So most weeks, you're getting feedback from your lecturer. And you'll be submitting an assessment every couple of weeks, and you'll be looking out for your results. And this can provide a real sense of achievement and progress. So you might be having a bad week at work, or rarely get any feedback from your manager at all. But then you get a good grade for your assignments, and you get your lecturers feedback, and it's really constructive. And it can be a real boost.

Dan Mason: Fantastic. That's really great detail about the course itself. So based on what you said, I imagine there's a few listeners wanting to know a bit more than you know, considering that whether this might be the right thing for them. What advice do you have for anyone who is considering an MBA?

Lisa Day: Okay, well, I suppose my main advice for anyone thinking about it is really think about the time commitment, as well as the financial commitment. I've said it's about 15 to 20 hours a week. So you really need to think about where that's going to come from. So typically, it's earlier mornings, or longer evenings, and perhaps some of the weekend. So what can you do to create more time, you're probably gonna watch less TV, and to use less social media. But you still need to make time for your day job and for your family. So the second piece of advice is linked, and that's to talk to your friends and your family about your plans. So you're going to need their support and encouragement and it's surprising when you talk to people at the help that's often offered to you. And I think the final piece of advice is that you really need to find the right programs. So you should think about when the program reflects your career aspirations. Is it a top program that's well regarded by your employers, should consider whether it's feasible for you to give up your job to study full time, or whether a more flexible online program where you can work full time and study part time is actually better for you.

Dan Mason: Some great advice there and a comprehensive overview. Lisa, thanks very much for your time today.

Lisa Day: You're welcome. Thank you.

Dan Mason: Thanks very much to Lisa for joining me to talk about the University of Liverpool's online MBA. You can search for postgraduate courses including MBAs by going to prospects.ac.uk. To hear more from Future You find us on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts, and get in touch with comments, feedback or suggestions. Just email podcast@prospects.ac.uk. That's it for this episode. Thanks for listening. And we'll see you soon.

Note on transcripts

This transcript was produced using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. The audio version is definitive and should be checked before quoting.

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