Earning an MBA is a commitment. It’s challenged by the demands of work, home and family. The list of things that can derail plans to spend an evening or weekend in class and/or studying is endless.
But Baldwin Wallace University has made that commitment easier to maintain by offering “flexible MBAs” with five MBA specializations — business analytics, health care management, human resources, management and sport management — and “stackable graduate certificates” in business analytics, health care management, human resources and sport management. Director of graduate business admissions Carmen Castro-Rivera notes that the programs, introduced in fall 2019, accommodate students’ schedules and goals with innovative features.
“Individuals need the continuing education and lifelong learning opportunities that move and flow the way they do,” she says.
The flexible MBA does just that from the moment a student is accepted by abolishing the set-in-stone start times inherent in traditional cohort-based programs. Students can enter their chosen specialization in any one of five eight-week modules — Castro-Rivera calls them “mini-mesters” — that begin in August, October, January, March and May.
“With adult learners, the decision [to earn an MBA] is a long decision,” she observes. When they decide, ‘OK, I’m going to go,’ they don’t want to wait until next year because they’ve missed the start of that cohort.”
The flexible MBA also allows those adult learners to work at their own pace, whether that means taking more than the usual one or two classes per semester or completely skipping a term. But perhaps the biggest advantage the program offers is the choice of how to participate in a class: in person, online in real time or by watching a recording of the session.
Students can mix up their modes of participation. For example, they can attend class in person only to explore particularly complex topics or view recordings when life makes it impossible to get to campus or log on to an online class in progress. At press time, all fall classes were scheduled to be delivered in person, online in real time or by watching a recording of the session.
Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, a virtual tool that allows faculty members to share files and applications, write on a virtual blackboard, create chatrooms for small-group activities, etc., is the technology being used for online classes. The session content is recorded and uploaded to a class portal. Castro-Rivera says students who opt to view recorded classes may participate, for example, by submitting responses to chatroom questions posed by the instructor during the session. She adds that Baldwin Wallace’s are taught by the same faculty members students see in their campus classrooms.
The 12- to 15-hour stackable graduate certificates offer adult learners who already have a bachelor’s degree the opportunity to continue their education and professional development — and get a true academic credential for doing it — without making that full-blown commitment to earn an MBA. They can earn a single certificate in business analytics, health care management, human resources or sport management. Or they can go on to earn certificates in business administration and business leadership and innovation, as well as complete a capstone course in strategic management and obtain an MBA in their chosen specialization.
In addition, Baldwin Wallace offers a standalone strategic marketing certificate. Castro-Rivera stresses that the certificates can be earned in any order. She gives the example of the engineer who chooses to get a business administration certificate as her first or only certificate to prepare for a promotion to a management position.
Although earning an MBA by “stacking” certificates involves completing more credit hours — typically 42 hours versus the 33 required by the university’s traditional MBA program — Castro-Rivera says the concept appeals to those who aren’t completely sure they want an MBA when they return to school or only want to develop particular skills.
She points out that those who decide to pursue an MBA after earning a first certificate can reduce their coursework by declaring to do so. A single certificate requires less time and money to earn than an MBA, a vital consideration for anyone who isn’t eligible for tuition reimbursement from an employer or is out of a job. She calls business analytics “our hottest specialization area.”
“No matter what industry or job function, the ability to consume large amounts of data, analyze it, assess it, put it into easily visualized formats so that people can understand it and then use that information to make informed decisions, is in high demand,” she says.
The health care management certificate appeals to people looking to enter or further their careers in one of Northeast Ohio’s top industries, while the human resources counterpart attracts those in a profession that, like accounting, promotes obtaining advancing credentials.
Castro-Rivera notes that the graduate certificates are attracting the interest of companies such as KeyBank, which is paying for a business analyst to earn a business analytics certificate. The targeted instruction increases employees’ ability to shoulder current responsibilities.
Moreover, employees not only have to attend classes, they also participate in them and complete graded assignments to get the certificate — work they may not have to do at a weeklong professional development conference or “lunch-and-learn” program.
The university plans to begin offering a flexible MBA and stackable graduate certificate in sport management this fall and a flexible MBA and stackable graduate certificate in strategic marketing next spring. These expansions will help more adults continue learning throughout their working lives.
“We all are needing to adapt to change much more,” Castro-Rivera says. “The opportunity to provide learning programs that meet their needs is really