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Largest ever distance learning plenary

Posted on 20/07/2011

Distance learning MBA plenary 2011

2011 MBA/MSc International Management cohort

In what was very much a team effort, staff at the School of Management pitched in to ensure that a record number 113 delegates at this year's Egham plenary had a highly engaging and rewarding experience. These two-week plenary sessions allow students on the distance learning  course to meet face-to-face with academic staff and other students in an intensive programme of master classes, group projects and social events.

The ever popular Thames boat trip was reinstated, plus the formal dinner in Founder's saw arts marketing specialist Dr Derrick Chong share some historical insights into its £30 million Victorian art collection. Following participant feedback, more emphasis this year was put on engaging with industry speakers. Oral feedback suggested that 2011 was a significant improvement on the 2009 and 2010 sessions.

"Plenary 2011 - for me the second truly amazing time in Egham! It was a week filled with interesting research, hard work and great presentations. But maybe the best part was connecting with interesting people from all parts of the world in an ambience of great academic heritage and beautiful nature. Comparing week one in 2010 to week two in 2011 one could feel that the organisers are pushing hard to make this experience even better."
L. Schaper, Germany

Networking and student-lead learning

A crucial component of the programme is formal and informal social interaction. This year saw innovations such as a self-guided team building challenge to critically evaluate a London tourist attraction, and a peer-to-peer theory into practise seminar that saw students share their own business experience. One very powerful story involved a social entrepreneurship start-up in a village in Pakistan, while another looked at the clash between ‘western’ multinational oil company corporate social responsibility initiatives and the needs of local Nigerian communities.

“The two plenary week sessions are without doubt the most important part of the course. Distance learning is tough and lonely but meeting fellow students, meeting lecturers in person and making friendships that last well beyond the two weeks makes the whole experience so much more rewarding.”
Albert Hetherington-Jones, Italy

Industry speakers

There were stimulating presentations from:

  • Mike Gibson (Research in Motion) explained how Blackberry looks to retain its number one position in the smart phone market;
  • Peter Schonbeck (Levi Strauss) looked at corporate social responsibility, how fashion trends are developed and how organisations manage the supply chain;
  • Allen Huish shared his experience of change management at British Airways in promoting change and overcoming organisational resistance to new ways of working online.

“I learned a lot from listening to industry speakers and the consultancy project really allowed me to finally apply all the knowledge I had gained throughout the MBA to issues in the real world. The project's structure taught me invaluable lessons about teamwork and the problem solving process, and in fact I almost feel I learned as much from my teammates and the expertise and assets they brought to the table as from the project itself.”
Christy Grimste, USA

Digital marketing challenge by MillerBrandsUK

A team from MillerBrandsUK (the UK arm of FTSE top 50 SABMiller) returned for the second year in a row to pitch a digital media metrics question to the students in week two. This assessed group work sees students randomly assigned into groups which emulate management consultancy teams. Presentations were of a very high standard, with some diverse out of the box thinking that saw some high risk strategies.

Jason Maling, MillerBrandsUK Marketing Director, said in concluding the plenary “This wasn’t just an exercise, this is input we will take away”


  • 89% of respondents felt their motivation had increased after the plenary
  • 96% of respondents would recommend the programme to others and the same number were satisfied with the programme

“The end of plenary feedback showed very strong positive responses from students about the plenary and the distance learning masters programme they follow. Whilst the big picture shows that we are getting many things right, it is not surprising that there are strong views from the Masters students on how we could make things even better particularly in the areas of responsiveness and course currency. The challenge for the upcoming year is to pull together as a team to deliver these improvements.”
Justin O’Brien, MBA Director at Royal Holloway » Staff profile


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