The new face-to-face education: Scalable live-engagement

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The iMBA, which is delivered 100% online, was launched by Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2016. By fall of 2018, the program will enroll more than 1,700 students from 70 countries. With its US$22,000 tuition, about 1/3 the price of programs of similar caliber, the iMBA is reaching under-served populations, including those unable to pay premium prices or make time for in-person residency as well as late-career learners who are disinclined to attend a conventional program. One of the iMBA's major breakthroughs is its scalability, and that scalability has been accomplished in ways that enhance the quality of education. An iMBA course has two main components - an open MOOC, which delivers core concepts equivalent to what might be covered in a conventional in-person lecture, plus a live global classroom led by a professor and supported by a team of course assistants. As the MOOC delivers the fundamentals of a topic, the live-engagement class focuses on a richer exploration of the material. In the live-engagement classes, hundreds of students can participate simultaneously - yet receive significant individual attention and personalization by interacting with professors and course assistants in real time through chat technology. Students also interact with each other, which often results in side topics being explored, thus producing a richer environment for knowledge discovery than would be possible in a traditional lecture hall in which side conversations are discouraged. Course assistants answer basic questions, and elevate particularly important insights or questions to the professor at the head of the full class, also in real time. Another distinctive feature of the iMBA is that it is delivered in "stackable" components: A MOOC plus live-engagement element stacks into a for-credit course. A series of for-credit courses stack plus a capstone project stacks into a "Specialization." In turn, a series of Specializations stack into the full MBA degree. In this way, students have various on-ramps to the full degree. The iMBA has to a significant degree cured the cost disease in higher education. Faculty create content for multiple uses - for the full MBA as well as for certificate programs, for example - producing multiple revenue streams. Plus classes can be large owing to the novel teaching-team structure, enabling one senior faculty member to potentially teach thousands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-59
Number of pages16
JournalVoprosy Obrazovaniya
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2018


  • Access
  • Cost disease
  • Curricular design
  • Disruption
  • Gies College of Business
  • Innovation
  • MBA
  • MOOC
  • Scalability
  • Stackability
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

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