Lim Yann Ling
HIS thirst for knowledge is so strong that Mr Samuel Schwarz learns whenever he can. He studies on board an aircraft, at home and even in his office while waiting for a meeting to start.
Mr Schwarz, an IT director at Boston Consulting Group, is a time-starved executive who is pursuing a master's programme part-time while working in a full-time job.
"E-learning allows learning to take place 'any time any place' so I don't lose commuting time. I can choose my course load, finish assignments earlier and have more control of my time," says Mr Schwarz (right), 38.
The part-time MBA candidate at U21Global adds: "To executives like myself, the online education is actually closer to what happens in the real world. We work in virtual teams and complete assignments via e-mail, chat rooms and 'webinars'. These are the basis for most of the work done in global firms today."
Established in 2001 , U21Global is an online graduate school that has a network of 17 affiliated universities, among them the University of Virginia, USA and Waseda University in Japan.
Affiliated professors form a panel to decide the school's curriculum and faculty hire. Seventy per cent of its intake choose an MBA course and most of them are working professionals in their mid-30s, with an average of nine years' work experience.
U21Global's flexible fee structure is another draw. Mr Nick Hutton (right), U21Global's chief executive officer, says: "Our fees are set according to the purchasing power parity of a country. In Singapore, our current fee is around US$17,000 (S$23,994) for the MBA programme, which will cost US$25,000 in USA."
Without going purely online, Mr Jeroen Overbeek (right), 40, was able to find flexibility in satellite campuses.
The managing director at Delta Marine Consultants Singapore opted for Manchester Business School (MBS), part of the University of Manchester in the UK.
MBS students are free to complete their studies at any of its satellite campuses in UK, Dubai, Hong Kong , Malaysia, Caribbean, Brazil and Singapore.
"Being an expatriate, the flexibility of campus locations was an attraction," says the Dutchman. "Having 'face time' with professors was important for me as it allowed for direct, personal discussions."
MBS Singapore is located in the financial hub of Raffles Place, an added convenience as most of its students are executives in their mid to early 40s who are sponsored by their employers, who include MNCs (Multinational Companies), banks and GLCs (Government-Linked Companies). The popular programme costs $51,000.
MBS' popularity comes from its reputation. Its programme has a triple accreditation ? AMBA, EQUIS, AACSB and good rankings in the Financial Time, Forbes, Economist and Newsweek.
These are factors prospective applicants look at to determine a programme's credibility.
Also looking for flexibility, Mr Ahmad Khairuddin (right), 35, chose an Executive MBA (EMBA) from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIUC) USA at Kaplan Singapore. The programme costs $25,300 and is popular among those aged 35 to 50.
A network consultant with Datacraft Asia, he started the 18-month course in July last year. He explains: "I like that the 45-hour class time is held over two long weekends, followed by seven-week break for completing assignments and readings at our own pace.
"I can easily block out two weeks and still keep to my worktravel commitments."
Part of Kaplan, Inc., a US$2b business owned by The Washington Post Company, the school's four most popular programmes are all MBA or EMBA programmes, says deputy marketing director Alvin Teo (right).
Mr Teo attributes the MBA's popularity to an increase in the number of locals and foreign talents who recognise that the qualification can open doors globally, or "generally wherever MNCs can be found".
"The insights and added qualifications have definitely improved my 'market value' and credibility," says Mr Schwarz, a Swiss. "But overall, it was an incredibly rich cultural experience too. I had a Greek, a Thai and an Israeli among my professors."
Most of the programmes have a minimum grade requirement to ensure that the students are up to standard. He adds: "More than other programmes, an online programme requires serious commitment, self-motivation and discipline."
- Check the credibility of the programme. For business schools, the accreditations are "AACSAB", EQUIS and AMBA. It is also advisable to check rankings by publications such as Financial Times, Forbes, Economist and Newsweek.
- Check the calibre of its candidates and lecturers. They determine the quality of networking and lesson time you get.
- Be sure that the curriculum covers your goals and interests.
- Be convinced that the time and financial commitment of the programme are worth the return in investment.
Stay the course
- Be sure your partner or family is supportive because a part-time programme is time-consuming.
- Have a genuine interest in the subjects. Instead of seeing studies as a chore, turn the subjects into interesting conversation topics.
- Let your employer know . most employers are supportive of their staffs' career goals.
- Finally, time management. This includes allotting time for hobbies and family - it can do wonders to refresh you physically, mentally and emotionally.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 31, 2008.