Close-up of the back of a teacher standing in front of a wall of screens showing people overlaid with their answers to a poll. The answers include Inspiring Others and Lead by Example.

Flex Benefits

New cohort widens access to the Berkeley MBA

Online instruction during the pandemic came with its share of frustrations, but it also came with unexpected upsides, including flexibility for learning in remote locations and novel online tools adopted by faculty.

Haas is taking advantage of those benefits by launching a new Flex cohort for its Evening & Weekend MBA Program. The option will combine online and in-person instruction to offer a wider cross-section of students access to a Berkeley MBA.

“When the pandemic hit, our faculty became increasingly expert in using online teaching technology, with all kinds of tools for interaction and enhancements to their courses,” says Jennifer Chatman, PhD 88, the associate dean for academic affairs. “We saw we could scale this to meet the needs of students from a wider geographical and demographic network—people across the country but also the working parent in Santa Clara who can’t come to campus two nights a week for three years.”

Students will take core classes virtually from Haas professors who will be teaching in new state-of-the-art video classrooms created specifically for remote instruction. For electives, students will have the option to come to campus for in-person instruction. “If students want to complete the entire degree program online, they can do that,” says Jamie Breen, the assistant dean of MBA Programs for Working Professionals, who oversees the EWMBA program. “But they can also come to campus for their electives and get all of the benefits any evening and weekend student gets, including access to the career management center and student clubs.”

Core classes taught online by regular Haas faculty will include a mix of synchronous and asynchronous content. Associate Prof. Ricardo Perez-Truglia, for example, has recorded lectures for key theoretical concepts for his core microeconomics course; last year, he found that students watched them multiple times and even used them for open-book exams.

“For topics like price discrimination or versioning, I can make an hour-long video for something that would take me two hours to say live,” says Perez-Truglia. “Students can watch them over and over until they understand it.” He is then able to devote more time in synchronous classes to discussion and applications to real-world situations.

The online environment also allows professors to use new tools to enrich instruction, including collaborative whiteboard spaces, simulation exercises, and other experiences that would be difficult in a fully in-person environment. “You can do instantaneous breakout rooms and have oneon- one conversations in ways you couldn’t do together,” says Associate Prof. Juliana Schroeder, who teaches the core leadership course. In one negotiation exercise, for example, she assigns a group of 10 students roles in a fictitious company, then encourages them to meet virtually to discuss strategy. A week later, they attempt to persuade the CEO of their strategy objectives. “All sorts of amazing things happen when you get to see who wielded the most influence over the course of the week and what coalitions formed,” says Schroeder.

In addition to the core classes, students take a wide range of electives, such as Power and Politics in Organizations, a highly sought-after class which Prof. Cameron Anderson specifically designed for an online environment well before the pandemic, as well as popular in-person courses such as Financial Information Analysis and Data Analytics.

While much of the interest in the cohort has come from Northern California so far, Haas has also seen strong interest from Los Angeles, Seattle, Phoenix, and Portland, Ore., says Bill Pearce, assistant dean and chief marketing officer. “Our target is the same as for the evening and weekend programs: smart, talented people with seven to 10 years of experience who want to round out their skill set to prepare them for career advancement,” Pearce says. “Taking away some of the geographic restrictions just opens Haas up to more people.”