Can’t come to Berkeley? Haas launches new flex program to draw more students

BY Sydney LakeAugust 06, 2021, 2:00 AM
Facade and landscaped entryway to Haas School of Business on the campus of UC Berkeley in downtown Berkeley, California, as seen in May 2018. Smith Collection—Gado/Getty Images

Prospective MBA candidates have yet another option to earn a degree from a prestigious university at home. This week, the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business announced a flexible, online option for its part-time evening and weekend MBA program. The first cohort will enroll in July 2022.

“There are a number of potential applicants who would love to be able to come to Haas and who we would like to have,” says Jamie Breen, assistant dean of MBA programs. “This is another way, as Berkeley’s public mission, to make ourselves more accessible.”

Students enrolled in the flex program will take core MBA courses, such as microeconomics and marketing, online and then have the option to take elective classes virtually or in person on the Berkeley Haas campus. Flex students take their core courses during the first three semesters of the program, and the curriculum will be exactly the same as that delivered in the evening and weekend MBA program at Haas.

Teaching with new tools

About 40% to 60% of classes will prerecorded—a method that Ricardo Perez-Truglia, a microeconomics professor at Haas, found was helpful to his MBA students during the pandemic. Filmed lectures allow students to revisit concepts as many times as they’d like.

“With the whole pandemic experience, one of the things that surprised me was students really, really like the asynchronous lectures I posted,” he says. “They watched them a lot, and I can see analytics, I can see exactly which videos they found the most useful.”

Filmed lectures will also allow for other Berkeley Haas professors to guest speak in core courses to share their expertise, adds Breen, who will oversee the flex program.

“Our faculty are really interested in how they can use these tools and this format more creatively to deepen the student experience and their own teaching,” she says. The virtual environment also allows professors to experiment with simulations and other tech-enabled learning tools.

The flex program, as part of the evening and weekend part-time MBA program, takes about two-and-a-half to three years to complete. Elective course structure may vary from core courses depending on the subject. For example, an elective course may require more live discussion and case studies, so there could be more synchronous, or live, content involved.

“Ideally, we want to keep everything as similar as possible,” Perez-Truglia says of Haas’s multiple MBA program options. “The only difference is that the synchronous portion happens online rather than in-person” for the flex program.

Haas lands on the No. 13 spot on Fortune’s ranking of the best full-time MBA programs. Other top schools such as Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and Johns Hopkins Carey Business School offer similar programs in which students complete the majority of their studies online and have opportunities for on-campus programming.

Flexibility with five on-campus opportunities

Haas’s new program eliminates the need for a campus commute and adds flexibility to how students can complete the program, dean Ann E. Harrison said in a statement.

“Our innovative courses will help prepare our students for what’s next, addressing a wide range of workplace challenges—from questioning the ethics of artificial intelligence to recognizing how unconscious bias impacts management decisions,” Harrison added.

Flex students will have five additional opportunities to visit campus for orientation, a leadership communication course, an additional weekend immersion, a business communication in diverse environments course, and a weekend-long graduation celebration. Flex students will also have access to cocurricular activities like clubs, case competitions, and career management services.

Who makes a good fit

The admissions process for the flex program is exactly the same as the evening and weekend program, Breen says, and the school is targeting a similar pool of applicants. The flex program, however, is more accessible to those who are unable to come to campus each week for in-person classes. Prospective flex students apply through the evening and weekend application, and signify which is their top-choice program.

The flex program is designed for working professionals with at least five years of work experience. Applications open on Aug. 17, and the first cohort will include about 60 students who will enroll in July 2022. The evening and weekend MBA class size ranges from about 275 to 285 students and is broken up into cohorts of about 75 people. Prospective students have three opportunities to apply to the flex program, which has the same deadlines as the evening and weekend program. The final deadline is May 17, 2022.

See how the MBA programs you’re considering landed in Fortune’s ranking of best full-time and online programs.