Feature Stories

14.07.2021

Digital Freedom

HKUST’s new Digital MBA for Global Leaders allows students to customize their schedules.

The HKUST Business School is leading the way once again with the introduction of a flexible online postgraduate degree designed to meet the evolving needs of career-minded executives who are on the move.

The new Digital MBA for Global Leaders (DiMBA), the first of its kind to be offered by any top-ranked schools in Asia, makes it possible to keep up with classes while travelling for business, or even if relocating to another city.

In doing so, the two-year, part-time program combines the strengths of HKUST’s long-established, highly regarded MBA courses with a new opportunity for working professionals. They now have the extra freedom to customize their schedules as they learn about the latest in finance, systems, marketing practice, management theory and much more.  

“The pandemic, along with new technologies, has changed the way we work, meaning a new type of leader is called for in the post-Covid workplace,” says Professor CHEN Tai-Yuan, Associate Dean of the HKUST Business School and Director of the Digital MBA Program. “Professionals need a digital-focused education to help them adapt to the new normal. As a forward-looking school, we have to keep up with the changing times.”

Overall demand for online MBAs has risen markedly over the past couple of years, notes Professor Chen. The most recent annual survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council showed that global applications for such programs increased by 43.5 percent in 2020 alone.

Tailored to practical needs

Until now, most of the top-ranked choices have been offered by business schools in North America and Europe. Because of the time differences involved, it often proves difficult for Asia-based students to join the live online classes or play a full part in team projects and group discussions.

Thanks to the new option tailored to the practical needs and preferences of students in Asia, those concerns have been neatly and effectively addressed. 

“Our DiMBA has been carefully designed for senior professionals and executives who realize the future is digital,” Professor Chen says. “It will enable them to master a broad range of hard and soft skills through blended and virtual classes. The format of DiMBA also means participants have greater control over their own pace of learning because they can work through course content at a time which is best for them.”

For the initial intake, starting in February 2022, students will be expected to spend the first “immersion” week on campus at HKUST. This will be a chance for them to get to know their classmates and gain a sense of what happens within the wider MBA community. In passing, they may also hear more about the general outline of the overseas study trip which provides one of the program’s final elements.

A blended learning mode

Students can follow the rest of the curriculum via the school’s dedicated advanced learning platform. Core courses, which are usually more lecture-based, will be delivered in a blended learning mode, with 50 percent running as live virtual classes, and the balance covered through “self-paced” online study.

In other modules, where the material is more case-based, professors favor 100 per cent live virtual classes to spark debate and create the type of engagement that makes for a fully interactive experience.

The general range of assignments will also include class discussions, group and individual presentations, team projects and virtual exams.

Pioneering business technology courses such as AI, big data, blockchain and Python programming have been incorporated into the DiMBA curriculum to develop the kind of all-round leadership skills needed to run a successful business in “tomorrow’s workplace”.

“HKUST’s DiMBA will benefit from having the first exclusive digital classroom in Asia,” Professor Chen says. “With all the latest virtual learning technologies, it allows professors and students to interact with each other in a setting comparable to a physical classroom. Communicating in this forum, and discussing key issues with faculty members and classmates, is another way of training students to be effective leaders in the digital workplace.”

Small and elite classes

As an alternative, he notes that students will still have the option of attending classes in person with the other MBA cohorts.

Unlike many international online degrees, admission for the DiMBA is expected to be highly selective. The aim is to attract a small but elite class of senior executives from diverse fields, who are keen to upgrade their skills and expand their professional networks.

“HKUST believes that online learning should have the same transformational impact as the very best face-to-face courses,” Professor Chen says. “We are the first business school in Greater China to join the Future of Management Education (FOME) Alliance alongside like-minded schools who share that vision. In practical terms, it means our DiMBA students will also be able to enroll in online courses at other global business schools to keep learning without quitting their job or interrupting their career,” says Professor Chen.

“The format of DiMBA means participants have greater control over their own pace of learning because they can work through course content at a time which is best for them,” said Professor CHEN Tai-Yuan, Associate Dean of the HKUST Business School and Director of the Digital MBA Program