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Nine reasons to upgrade your executive education Add to ...

Reason Nº. 1
Because it’s an excuse to travel the world
If you’re going to leave the house to go to school, you might as well go all the way. That’s easy these days, with so many of Canada’s executive education programs making travel a core part of the curriculum.

At the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, for instance, students in the Global Energy Executive MBA program hopscotch around the globe to see the energy industry from end to end. The 20-month program—which features intensive, 2.5-week residencies at three-month intervals—begins, of course, in Calgary, gateway to the oil sands, and then moves to Houston. Other stops include London, where the commodities get traded on the global market; Saudi Arabia, where students learn about the enormous issues that face one of the world’s most prolific producers; and India, where demand for energy is skyrocketing. The program winds up in Banff, with a focus on leadership. “You’re delivering very classic business education, but you’re contextualizing the real world,” says Hugh Evans, Haskayne’s director of executive education. “It makes it a more powerful learning experience.”

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Reason Nº. 2
Because you can do it online
Michael Murphy, a theatre director by training, had always been interested in the dynamics of leadership. But in order to qualify for professional development assistance offered by his employer, a Toronto hospital foundation, he had to sign up with an accredited institution—without disappearing for weeks at a time. So Murphy enrolled in an executive program at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana (whose EMBA offerings were recently ranked No. 15 in the world by The Economist). The hook: The program, which involved three courses stretched over a year, was delivered entirely online.

Notre Dame is far from the only school offering online executive education. Ivy League schools like Harvard and Columbia have jumped onto the virtual bandwagon, catering to students who want accreditation from a top-flight school but can’t afford to miss a week of work. As Murphy discovered, however, there are drawbacks: The Notre Dame course’s laid-back design didn’t stretch him the way he’d hoped. “It was a series of video lectures with no real reading required,” he says. As for networking, Murphy could chat with his classmates through web forums, but it wasn’t a mandatory, or even necessary, part of the coursework, and it meant Murphy didn’t connect with his classmates. (He ended up writing his GMAT and applying for the MBA program at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management.)

Not all online courses are delivered the same way, so it’s worth investigating whether students must sign in at set times for live, online lectures (which promise a more dynamic experience) or view pre-recorded ones (which offer greater flexibility). Some schools host mandatory discussions, which can bring out voices that might stay silent in the classroom, while others let the students decide how much they want to interact. Some require coursework and presentations to be prepared in advance of a live, virtual class; others leave the assessments to tests and assignments. There’s a wide range of options to suit learners of all styles.


Reason Nº. 3
Because you can study just about anything you’re interested in
Businesses aren’t generic and, increasingly, neither is business education. Instead of one-size-fits-all packages, a growing number of advanced business programs are blending management smarts with industry-specific skills.

A few examples: The University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business runs a program for agribusiness execs. UBC’s Sauder School of Business offers an EMBA focused entirely on health care management, sending students to places like the U.K. to study their systems up close. Meanwhile, the Schulich School of Business at York University offers a Master of Finance geared specifically to regulatory affairs.

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