Students listen to a class in Krannert

How Krannert doubled Weekend MBA enrollment while cutting class time 

When Professor Robert Plante was told Krannert’s Weekend MBA program was going to undergo another design change, he couldn’t help but think, “Again?”

 Over the course of its history, the program had morphed from a Saturday program that took three years to complete to a two-year program that held weekly classes on Friday nights and all-day Saturday, as a way to entice future business leaders from around the region to attend.

Now, Plante was told, the program would only meet on Saturdays in alternating weeks, with additional learning taking place online, outside of the classroom.

“I was a little worried that it was going to be hard to get to know the students, and that students wouldn’t be as prepared for their time in class,” Plante says. “But I couldn’t have been farther from the truth.”

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 The genesis for the in-person and online hybrid that has become Krannert’s Weekend MBA program was mostly the demands of today’s MBA student, says Don Roush, the program’s associate director.

 “A lot of our students have traditionally been working professionals, often with young families, who live within a couple of hours drive from West Lafayette,” Roush says. “If you’re working all week, then having to drive to campus to take classes every weekend, that’s really difficult for a lot of people. We knew there had to be a better way.”

But rather than enter into the fray with the several hundred MBA programs now available entirely online, Roush says Krannert wanted to keep providing a classroom setting where students could meet face-to-face with professors and peers and where networking would remain a key component. 

“There’s a lot of value in being able to have that face-to-face time, both with the professor and with the other students,” Roush says. “We didn’t want to give that up.”

Roush and his team turned to ITaP and the instructional designers working for its Teaching and Learning Technologies unit, looking for help with a simple request: Help us create a hybrid weekend program that required students to be on campus two Saturdays a month, but where but where a significant portion of the learning could take place online.

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Krannert building.

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“Initially there was a lot of fear from faculty that they would lose time for discussion,” says ITaP instructional designer Erica Vail, who helped lead the course design process. “And there was a learning curve with some of the technology.”
But creating a hybrid degree program with a major online component goes far beyond setting faculty up with the right technology or recording lecture videos. For Vail and her team it meant working with faculty to ensure their transition from traditional to online classroom was both smooth and pedagogically sound – looking at everything from how students would navigate online discussions and assignments, to determining what metrics should be used to measure success.

“Our main goal was to maintain the quality of the program and the teaching, and to do it in a way that actually enhanced what the faculty were able to do,” Vail says.

Course designers showed faculty how short, topic-specific videos were actually more powerful than a recorded hour-long lecture. They helped set up course pages in the Blackboard Learn course management system, providing a common place to find course materials. They also worked with faculty to design assignments and assessments, helping to determine which worked best online and in the classroom.

“Their help has been incredibly beneficial,” says Plante, Krannert’s Lewis B. Cullman Professor of Management. “Any time I have a question they’re able to walk me through it.”

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Now, halfway through the second semester of the five-semester long program, it may be early to declare Krannert’s new Weekend MBA program format a success. But already, there are success stories.

The first, and most obvious: enrollment. Last year’s cohort – which met on Friday and Saturday weekly – had 22 students. This year, with the new model, enrollment is 57.

“It more than doubled,” says Roush, “which is better than we expected.”

Beyond boosting enrollment, however, the hybrid model has allowed faculty to embrace new methods and methodologies – allowing for better insight from students than ever before.

“One of the things I’ve found is that by moving some of the discussion online to message boards, you actually get a deeper level of conversation,” says Brian Chupp, professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management. “In the classroom, you might have just 25 percent of the class dominate the conversation, with the rest of the class just content to sit and listen. But online, where everybody has to participate, I’ve found some of the most insightful comments come from someone who’ll rarely raise their hand in class.”

Chupp, who has taught both fully online and hybrid courses for other colleges at Purdue, says the beauty of Krannert’s hybrid program is that it simulates a real-world working environment, where students have to learn how to interact with each other in person and online, “a critical skill.”

Another critical skill, one long stressed by Krannert instructors, is to apply academic discussions to real world problems. The new hybrid model, says Plante, allows that more than ever.

In previous versions of his class, Plante says he spent most of the class lecturing but tried to reserve 15 minutes at the end to discuss problems and applications. With the hybrid model, most of his lectures take place online allowing him more time to focus on problems and discussion.

“The students now come to class better prepared, because they’ve already had the lecture,” Plante says. “They’re able to watch it and re-watch it if they have questions. Now, I’m able to spend more time on examples, where they can actually apply what they’re learning.”

And because he spends more time working with his class, instead of simply standing in front of it talking, Plante says in many ways he’s getting to know them better than in the old model, where he saw them twice as much.

“I know the students appreciate having the flexibility,” Plante says, “and so do I.”

Curious how ITaP can help with your course design?

Contact ITaP's Teaching and Learning Technologies at tlt@purdue.edu. 

Writer: Dave Stephens, technology writer, Information Technology at Purdue, 765-496-7998, steph103@purdue.edu

Last updated: March 28, 2017

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