WEMBA changes spark growth, accessibility

More working parents and West Coast residents are applying to the Weekend Executive M.B.A. program since the in-person residency requirement has been reduced to one weekend per month, says Mohan Venkatachalam, senior associate dean for executive programs.

Previously, students were required to report to Fuqua every two weeks for Friday and Saturday classes. Now, the residency is once a month on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Then on Hybrid Saturday, students have the option of attending in person or virtually.

Venkatachalam credits state-of-the-art conferencing technology with making this new schedule with Hybrid Saturday work. Students may participate virtually using an electronic platform. There are two monitors in the back of the room. On the bigger screen, the content streams via video, while the faculty member is teaching before students seated in the room. Anytime a student speaks, the camera shifts so that person appears on the smaller monitor.

“So the virtual student gets the experience of being physically present,” Venkatachalam says. “They get the sense of being in the class. The time they are giving on Saturday is no different than students attending physically. That way we maintain the rigorous academics of the program.”

The class also has a “co-pilot” who recognizes virtual students; if they have a question or comment, the co-pilot advises the faculty member. “[Co-pilots] will put their hand up and act as a medium between virtual students and the faculty member,” Venkatachalam says. The co-pilot identifies the student, and the faculty member acknowledges that student, who then appears on the screen. Because it enables one fewer monthly trip to the Durham campus, Hybrid Saturday alleviates a disruption to students’ work schedules and makes the Weekend Executive MBA more accessible.

“You can imagine a working parent with a young child facing the challenge of lining up child care for two weekends every month,” he says.

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