Thursday 14 December 2017 11:57am
Melanie Pickworth (left) and Chloe Blacklock, two members of the very first online MBA cohort, graduated with the groundbreaking degree yesterday. Photo: Otago MBA.
Melanie Pickworth and Chloe Blacklock are both adept at juggling their work commitments, personal lives and study. As members of the first cohort of students to graduate with Otago’s online MBA degree they have to be.
The pair crossed the stage at the Dunedin Town Hall, along with four of their classmates, at yesterday's graduation ceremony – a major milestone for the highly successful new Otago degree. A further four members of the group graduated in absentia.
Executive Programmes Web Marketing Manager Hester Cheong says it was tremendously fulfilling to see students from the first online MBA cohort graduate.
"As our first cohort, they are very special to us and we are very proud of how well they have done."
“As our first cohort, they are very special to us and we are very proud of how well they have done. This is a group of outstanding individuals with a wealth of professional experience, who have successfully completed the programme in the shortest allowable time and excelled in it, while working and caring for their families.”
For Ms Pickworth, a Dunedin resident and Retail Leader at New World City Centre, graduating with this degree in her hometown was wonderful.
A single mother working full-time, the online MBA was perfect for her, as she could study in the evening from home, while her son was asleep.
“I was encouraged to do an MBA by my father, who also has one, and a friend who did hers through Otago. She told me the biggest part of doing an MBA for her was what she learnt about herself – and I totally believe this. The information you learn through group work and how you interact in different group situations, and how to prioritise and fit everything in is priceless.”
She says she loved the degree – and was thrilled to meet the diverse group of people she was studying alongside.
"Meeting a group of people that were all based all around the country and overseas and getting to know them was one of the best parts. As was being able to study while in the comfort of your own home."
“Meeting a group of people that were all based all around the country and overseas and getting to know them was one of the best parts,” she says. “As was being able to study while in the comfort of your own home. No one knew if I had PJ pants on or had a glass of wine unless I told them!”
While in hindsight she does not really know how she managed to fit study into her busy life – she says at the time it felt fine.
“Honestly, you just have to manage. The unimportant things fall away a little (like a tidy house); you spend time only with those you really want to; you study in your down time instead of watching TV. I still had plenty of time to socialise with friends – although my other MBA colleagues will tell you I’m the social queen so I’d find time anyway.”
Classmate Chloe Blacklock, a New Zealand citizen who completed the degree from her home in Brisbane, says enrolling in the online course meant she was able to study while maintaining her lifestyle.
“The best thing about completing the degree online was that there was limited impact to both my personal and professional life. I was able to complete the degree outside of business hours which meant that I could still complete my work day as normal, as well as maintain a personal life. Because the lectures were scheduled at night and during the week, I was still able to make social plans on alternative nights and also weekends.”
"I was able to complete the degree outside of business hours which meant that I could still complete my work day as normal, as well as maintain a personal life."
Though she was both working full time, and running a business, she says the flexibility of online classes meant she could manage.
“If there was ever a time that I really couldn’t make a lecture due to a business commitment or even a personal reason, I was still always able to watch the lecture recording at a time that was convenient to me to catch up.”
The Otago Online MBA was launched in May 2015, offering a high quality programme for professionals who wanted to complete an MBA, but were unable to undertake it on-campus or full-time.
Applications streamed from around New Zealand and overseas, encouraging a second intake in September that year.
Since then, it has gone from strength to strength – gaining incredible rankings for such a new course. Earlier this year it was ranked the fourth best online MBA in the world by London-based CEO Magazine, while the QS Online MBA chart put it at number 24. Just this month it broke more new ground – ranking in the top 200 of all MBAs worldwide in the QS charts.
Ms Cheong says taking the on-campus MBA curriculum online was a bold move.
“We were stepping into uncharted territory in New Zealand, guided by our best judgement and advice from colleagues who have been involved in online learning. The success of this new innovative approach has inspired us to do even more to take our MBA programme to greater heights.”
"The success of this new innovative approach has inspired us to do even more to take our MBA programme to greater heights."
Both Ms Pickworth and Ms Blacklock say it deserves these rankings.
“I was extremely impressed with the level of support offered throughout the degree,” Ms Blacklock says. “I didn’t quite know what to expect with studying online, but I felt like the lecturers and the staff at Otago were really there to help and guide us through the process.”
Ms Pickworth agrees.
“I’m so very glad I did an MBA through Otago. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and I would definitely recommend it to anyone thinking of doing it. Learning online is fantastic, excellent teachers and a similar experience to the ‘real’ classroom one.”
Graduating is always special, but as members of the first cohort of this innovative programme, the pair feel particularly proud.
“Graduating from Otago with my MBA in my home country is about one of the best Christmas presents I could ask for,” Ms Blacklock says. “To be surrounded by my family and also my peers to receive something we worked so hard for over the last two-and-a-half years was a truly rewarding experience.”
Both graduates hope their new qualification will open more doors and bring more exciting challenges.