Masters Makeover

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

The University of Phoenix’s new Next Generation MBA program is based on proven problem-solving techniques, rather than traditional education models, university officials say.

Traditionally, MBA programs have been based more on teaching theory, rather than the practical processes used to solve problems that companies face, said Chris Huff, campus director of the Brookfield campus of the University of Phoenix.

The school’s new Next Generation MBA program, which will be launched in the fall semester, aims to teach students a process they can use to easily identify problems and identify methods to resolve them, he said.

"(Business) leaders today derail themselves by not knowing how to strategically solve problems, and companies are so frustrated by it," Huff said.

The university surveyed 330 employers last year to find out what types of skills they most wanted to see in employees. The results of that survey showed that employers want workers to have strong communications skills, be able to learn on the job and work as a team.

"The top concerns were that (graduates) have book smarts but they can’t apply them if they have poor interpersonal communications and poor teamwork," Huff said.

The survey results were taken into consideration when the university’s curriculum was redesigned, he said. But that was only part of the process, which took more than four years.

The university wanted to have a platform to teach the different classes and programs it offers. University researchers identified a nine-step learning concept, which includes describing a situation, describing end goals, finding alternatives and evaluating results once solutions are implemented, that was eventually adopted.

Classes taught with the Next Generation MBA’s techniques emphasize decision making and problem solving, Huff said. That, in turn teaches students about not only the subject manner of their classes, but also about the problem solving process.

"It not only gives you book smarts, but also training to go through the process," Huff said. "You’re coming out (of the MBA program) with this ability to strategically and tactically plan to solve any problem. And if it can’t be solved, this (planning) will give you alternatives."

The University of Phoenix’s e-resource textbooks, which are available online for students, have been changed to reflect the new curriculum. While much of the course materials are the same, Huff said the teaching techniques have been more closely matched to the classroom, with a greater emphasis on real world application.

Since the textbooks are electronic, the university has been able to place interactive simulations within them to give students interactive lessons. Those simulations are designed to reinforce the problem-solving program taught in the classroom, giving students practice with what they’ve learned right away, Huff said.

The names of the courses within the Next Generation MBA program have been changed to better reflect the skill sets they are designed to instill in graduates. For example, statistics is now called managerial decision making, and finance class is now called maximizing shareholder wealth. Those changes are designed to help motivate business executives to send their employees to the MBA program by telling them what types of skills the graduates will walk away with, Huff said.

"This MBA program is so strong because folks walk out of here with solid decision making skills with the theory to support it," he said. "It becomes instant, instead of something 10 years down the road. My ultimate goal is to inject our community with tactical and problem solving leaders."

The Next Generation MBA program now addresses some of the problems most often faced by senior leaders in businesses, Huff said. Those problems are broken into three categories in the MBA curriculum – crisis management, growth opportunities and a change in leadership.

The new MBA program requires a total of 39 credits, but Huff said some students will qualify for waivers of up to nine credits, if they have a pre-existing business degree. Some students with masters or graduate degrees in business may also qualify for additional waivers, he said.

"There is a potential to have an MBA in 15 months (with the waivers)," he said, but added that most students will take between 18 and 24 months to complete the program.

August 19, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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