As life, business and education move online around the world, and in response to the leadership and guidance shown by the UAE government, The University of Manchester Middle East Centre in Dubai Knowledge Park has transitioned over 300 Global Part-time MBA students – working professionals from all over the world – from their planned face to face workshops hosted in Dubai, to virtual workshops hosted online. The move helps protect the health of the community and ensures continuity of learning. The Middle East Centre team continues to operate remotely and provide student support and other services.
The Middle East Centre planned to host more than 300 students of 54 nationalities and residing in 35 countries to attend the face to face workshops in Dubai, over two weeks in March, as part of their Global Part-time MBA studies. All of the students are working professionals in mid-senior management, specialist roles or entrepreneurs, and most are based in the Middle East, although around 100 of them are studying through the University’s other international centres and had elected to join MBA workshops in Dubai to enhance the overall experience.
The Middle East Centre is the University’s largest and fastest growing centre in the international network and has delivered blended learning programmes in the region since 2006. The Manchester Global Part-time MBA’s blended learning format, which combines online self-study and group projects with face to face teaching, meant the University could quickly virtualise the workshops to deliver the content as scheduled. The Manchester Global Part-time MBA was recognised as the ‘Best MBA Programme’ in the Middle East by Forbes Middle East in 2019.
Blended learning combines online self-study and group study with regular face to face workshops, recreating to a large extent the full-time programme experience (the Manchester Global Part-time MBA offers as much face to face contact time as many full-time MBA programmes). It also mirrors today’s workplace, where collaboration and communication tools connect teams often working remotely and virtually.
One of the principal advantages of blended learning is its flexibility, in terms of when, where and how students connect to the learning experience – especially the online study components. However, the face to face workshop experience is core to blended learning and is where students gain significant benefits from exposure to their peers, teaching faculty, and the opportunity to build professional networks. The University’s virtual workshops are faculty-led, delivered to regional time zones and designed to provide a highly interactive experience.
Ms. Randa Bessiso, Director – Middle East, The University of Manchester, comments: “Dubai is one of the world’s great business and education hubs, which helps attract global talent, and is a leader in e-Learning. We regularly host workshops in Dubai for hundreds of our part-time master’s programme students from around the world, who are all working professionals and so are currently facing multiple challenges including travel restrictions. Our decision to create virtual workshops was guided by the UAE government’s fast and decisive measures to protect the health and safety of the community. We are using all the flexibility of the blended learning format and our online experience to ensure continued access to learning for our students.”
The University of Manchester has suspended face-to-face teaching and closed non-essential sites at the Manchester (UK) campus, to protect health and wellbeing. All the University of Manchester Worldwide International Centres (including the Middle East Centre in Dubai) continue to operate remotely but are closed to physical access for students, staff, alumni and visitors. The Middle East team continues to deliver student support services and an active online programme of masterclasses and careers webinars for students and alumni, and information sessions and 1-2-1 counselling for candidates.