Cornell and Queen's

At a Glance

  • Interactive distance learning for 160 students
  • Attend class from their hometowns
  • Scalable MBA program

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Cornell and Queen’s Universities Make Executive MBA Degrees Possible for Professionals in Four Countries

Not long ago, earning a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) degree from a top-ranked business school like Cornell University or Queen’s University required relocating or making costly commutes to New York or Ontario. Now thanks to a groundbreaking program powered by Polycom video collaboration solutions, students in four countries are earning MBAs not just from one university, but both.

The Cornell-Queen’s Executive MBA Program gives busy professionals in 23 cities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Colombia, a chance to earn dual MBAs while remotely attending class from their hometowns. Yet despite the convenience and cost savings of distance learning, students still enjoy all the face-to-face interaction of traditional classroom instruction.

“A lot of professionals would love to get an MBA from Cornell or Queen’s but can’t because they live in Seattle or Atlanta,” says Stephen Demmings, video conferencing manager for the 16-month program, which is offered by Cornell’s Johnson School of Business in Ithaca, N.Y., and Queen’s School of Business in Kingston, Ontario. “This program offers that opportunity, without having to move or suspend their careers to go to school full time.”

The program combines one to two weeks of intensive instruction in either Ithaca or Kingston with team-based distance learning via dual-screen room video collaboration systems in each city. From studios in Ithaca and Kingston, instructors teach nearly two dozen student teams in a completely interactive environment.

“This isn’t a class where the professor just talks for four hours,” says Demmings. “Our gold standard is for interaction to take place every 10 minutes. We spend a month training faculty to make students feel like they’re all part of a cohesive class.” In fact, he says, many prefer learning over video. “They can see
faculty, content and documents clearly, and they see people who ask questions. You don’t have a classroom situation where a student is way in the back straining to see.”

The program’s distance learning network is built on a standards-based platform allowing students and teachers to collaborate using any type of device or system. Students can also access recorded classes to catch up on missed lectures or to review material on their own time.

The power of face-to-face collaboration

Because they interact face-to-face, many students view their class sessions as powerful networking opportunities. Some who first met over video have even started new businesses together.

And many students, says Demmings, find collaborating across cultures helps them view problems in new ways. “You wouldn’t get that in a regional MBA program. It’s only by conducting these classes over video that this happens.”

Launched in 2005 with 17 U.S. students and 50 in Canada, the program now has 160 participants. Thanks to its reliance on Polycom video solutions, Demmings says, the program isn’t limited by geography. “This allows us to expand the reach of the program and increase our enrollment without having to build new facilities. All we have to do is scale our Polycom infrastructure and video systems, and that’s easy.”


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