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Distance MBA classroom spans the globe

May 12, 2009

Aside from its name, there's nothing distant or isolating about Colorado State University's Distance M.B.A. program. Students may be across the globe but they are never far from classroom activities.

Through consistently improving content delivery and communications technology, the Distance M.B.A. program offers students around the world a front-row seat in a classroom set up within the walls of the College of Business.

Whether in a home in Kansas, an office in China, or a soldiers' barracks in Kandahar, Afghanistan, participating students are able to interact from thousands of miles away, just as Colorado State students do on campus.

Communication easy, constant

Although Distance M.B.A. students are not physically sitting in seats in a College of Business classroom, they are accorded almost all the privileges of an on-site student, with communication between students and instructors constantly available by technological means.

“One of the pillars of the program is providing the best service to our students, just as if they were on campus,” says Susan Meyer, director of M.B.A. programs at Colorado State.

“We want them to experience as much of the on-campus environment as possible,” Meyer says. “Within a matter of hours, if a distance student has a question, they contact an adviser who can solve a problem or answer a question as quickly as possible. It’s a very short turnaround.”

DVD and video streaming

The distance student views the on-campus lecture material via a mixed-media DVD and via video streaming, helping the student to feel as if they are part of the classroom environment.

“To that end, we do everything we can to ensure the students have our full input,” she says. “Our responsiveness is designed to make that happen.”

Oldest distance ed program in U.S.

These global ties serve to strengthen a program that began in 1967 at Colorado State. The oldest distance education program in the country, it is also the first distance program to be accredited by AACSB International, or Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the premier accreditation organization for business programs. Meyer says that out of nearly 1,600 business colleges in the country, less than 500 hold that accreditation.

In recent years, the Distance M.B.A. program has attracted attention among America’s most renowned business colleges. For the past three years, The Princeton Review has named the program one of the top10 best administered in the country, while Kiplinger magazine lists the Distance M.B.A. program as one of the county’s top “big name” programs.

Lecture content around the world within eight hours

Until four years ago, the program was delivered only to United States addresses. Today, the refining of technology allows the professor’s full lectures, guest speakers, and students’ questions to be duplicated on DVDs and rendered for video streaming. Lecture content is on its way around the world within eight hours after a lecture on campus ends.

The video streaming technology allows the College of Business to broadcast lectures to places where it is not easy to send DVDs or to students with unique barriers to our technology.

“Because our military has firewalls for protection, we can’t stream as usual,” Meyer says.

Soldiers upload zip files

“However, our technology allows us to break up the streaming into small packets – zip files – that soldiers can upload onto their personal computers and study wherever they are,” Meyer adds. “That’s where we get kudos. It’s amazing, exciting, and a point of production we’re honored to be part of.”

The Distance M.B.A. program is ever growing and extending its reach on a global level.

In the fall, a distance program will launch, thanks to an agreement between the College and The Alfred George Hanna (AGH) University of Science and Technology in Krakow, Poland.

“A cohort of Polish students and their professor will be watching our classes, our students, and our professors,” Meyer says. “Throughout the course, the Polish class will occasionally video conference with the lead professor here on campus; this will enrich the learning experience for the Polish students. It’s very exciting for us all.”

Military students make-up 28 percent of program

Another new partnership with The Graduate School is sparking excitement within the Distance M.B.A. family. It’s an alliance Meyer has been seeking for several years.

“I was searching for some organization within the federal government as an entry point, a door we could enter,” she says. “In 2004, we saw that the military was a very valuable resource and that about 10 percent of our student base was military. We wanted to find more ways to reach them.”

Thanks to a concentration on meeting the needs of military students, their participation in the program has now grown to 28 percent.

“When we saw this growth, we wanted to get federal employees engaged as well,” Meyer explains. “We knew they could be a valuable asset to the program.”

Federal employees have new option

The Graduate School began in the 1920s under the United States Department of Agriculture as a way to bring advanced education to government employees. Basically, through the years, the association with the Department of Agriculture fell away. However, The Graduate School today remains a primary program for advanced training and education for federal employees.

“We wanted a formal partnership with The Graduate School and signed an agreement a year and half ago,” Meyer says. The program will launch in May.

While The Graduate School offers an M.B.A. with a certificate in federal financial management that’s specifically designed for federal employees and military, they now have an opportunity to obtain an M.B.A. from Colorado State as well.

When Meyer looks at the future of the Distance M.B.A. program, she sees more successes to come for this enterprise program.


Excerpt from original story by Joyce Davis published in the College of Business Alumni Magazine, Spring 2009.