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By Liz Warren-Pederson

All Eller MBAs take a business communication course focused on learning to handle tough communication scenarios that managers face.

Session participants in the OMBA business communication class.

Session participants in the OMBA business communication class.

“Our online MBA (OMBA) course needed to replicate the same robust training through a remote learning environment,” said Diza Sauers, director of the Business Communication Program at Eller. “We concentrated on finessing remote communication channels.”

The OMBA students formed teams through which they experienced challenging communication scenarios, learning about individual and group communication dynamics, delivering remote board presentations, and delivering messages in real time. 

A highlight of the curriculum is challenging the students with a face-to-face scenario for a crisis communication simulation. “I was included in a Cisco Telepresence pilot for the University,” Sauers said. “I was able to bring in external guests and host students live, wherever they were geographically located, to experience being in the ‘line of fire.’” 

Sauers and her team designed a case that tracked the launch and subsequent difficulties with the Affordable Care Act.  Students hosted a press conference around the event of U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius’s resignation. The students composed a statement and then fielded questions from a mock press corps of faculty and Eller alumni. “Surviving the line of fire is a final measure of the students’ ability to stay cool and get on message and stay on message, all the while getting their point across,” Sauers said. “We couldn’t host this kind of a learning experience if we didn’t have the right technology.”

“One of my concerns with pursuing an online MBA route was that I wouldn’t get the same experiences or opportunities as my counterparts in the full-time or evening programs,” said Rachel Wipf, a current student. “However, this class has done a great job making our online experience as close as possible to those in the classroom, and I really appreciate that. The crisis simulation was definitely a learning experience and something I will never forget!”

Gabriela Head, an Eller alum and current senior marketing communications manager with Microsoft, served as an external panelist. “Today’s Fortune 100s expect MBAs to possess skills including public speaking, influencing, and crisis communication capabilities. We must be able to employ these skills as we communicate with stakeholders across geographic regions and time zones. To do this, we must be able to use video conferencing platforms and perform with the same level of effectiveness as if we were in the same room.”

“I’m so pleased that our communication offerings were able to capitalize on some cutting-edge technology to provide our students with a learning experience that is both relevant and resonant with what they will experience in the workplace,” Sauers said. “This was a great forum to have our students meet in real time, expand their sense of community by working with active alumni in the industry, and still provide the same enhanced learning we provide in a traditional classroom offering.”

“I found this training invaluable during my MBA and use Diza’s communication training every single day in my work environment,” Head said. “It is a pleasure to be able to give back to the college and help give other MBA students the benefits I experienced.”

Top image of on-line community concept courtesy Shutterstock.