From Zoom to classroom: This is what an online MBA residency is like

Online MBA programs often include a residential or residency, where students can spend a week (or more) at the home university or another location. To find out more about what these residentials are like, we spoke to four current online MBA students at ESMT Berlin.

In short

Why study an online MBA?

Online programs aren’t what they used to be.

Gone are the days of simply delivering an MBA program on Zoom instead of the classroom. Nowadays, business schools offer specialized curriculums tailored to an online format and delivered using pioneering technology.

When searching for an online MBA, you’ll probably find that most programs offer what’s known as a residency. A residency gives students the chance to meet up in-person, either on a study trip to an international destination or at the home university campus.

Yet, the flexibility of an online program will perhaps always be its biggest selling point. Students can study when they want, where they want, and how they want. For Ayaka Nogaku, a current online MBA student at ESMT Berlin in Germany, being able to fit the MBA around her work commitment has been a huge benefit for her.

Ayaka tells MBAGRADSCHOOLS she is happy she can immediately use new skills at work: “I can test, I can learn, and then I can bring it back to the class. It’s like a continuously, iterative learning experience.” (00:18)

Patrick Gall, a fellow ESMT Berlin online MBA student, agrees. He says the skills he has learned during the online program are relevant to his current role – and to the world of business in general.

“The online MBA program is perfect for me. It’s been teaching me a lot of skills in project management and customer relations, customer analytics, data…we’ve been doing a lot of learning on a variety of different topics that are all applicable to everything I do in my work right now,” he explains. (00:38)

How an online MBA residency works

ESMT Berlin offers residencies to students as electives. During the Berlin Experience Week, online MBA students spend a week together in Germany’s capital city. They take part in a range of interactive sessions based around the German economy, as well as enjoying company visits to companies and start-ups, team-building events and social outings to form closer bonds with their classmates. 

“We have completed three modules, and now we’re having the one-week Berlin Experience Week,” explains Ayaka. “Most of our classmates are gathered in Berlin. We’ve explored the beautiful city. We’ve learned about Germany. We have met each other for the first time.” (01:02)

The other option for ESMT online MBA students is the Global Experience Week, where students attend a week of classes at a Global Network of Advanced Management (GNAM) partner school. Potential destinations include South Africa, Japan, or Ireland. By participating in this immersive week, students get to experience unique business and leadership contexts across diverse cultures.

For many students, residencies such as these are one of the most valuable components of an online program.

“The residency gave me a lot of energy and inspiration.”

Having only met your fellow students on Zoom calls up to this point, meeting them in-person can take some getting used to. But according to Asif Sardar, another online MBA student, it was ultimately a really worthwhile experience.

“Some people look exactly the same as they looked in the Zoom call, but some people [looked] very different!” he laughs. “We had a lot of fun together. And it’s a real feeling, I would say. And it has been very fulfilling.” (01:20)

For Lithuanian student Justina Geneviciute, the chance to spend some time in Berlin meant more than just socializing and meeting her classmates. It was also a chance to immerse herself in Berlin’s vibrant startup scene – an experience she found invigorating.

“I decided to come here because I wanted to meet my classmates, I wanted to speak to the professors. And of course, I wanted to find out more about Berlin, about Germany. Berlin is the startup hub, of course, of Europe, so it gave me a lot of energy, a lot of inspiration,” she says. (01:42)

Is an online MBA worth it?

An online program will never be a direct substitute for an in-person program. It may cover the same topics, but forming close relationships with your classmates and teachers is always going to be more of a challenge through a screen. However, a residency helps build a genuine community among online MBA students.

“I think what surprised me most is actually the community you get to build during an online program, especially at ESMT,” explains Patrick. “They’ve done a really good job of helping us come together as a group and giving us tasks and assignments that are very group-orientated.” (02:05)

An online MBA is now a genuine alternative to an in-person program. They have a greater level of flexibility, curriculums are customized to suit an online format, and student residencies help to bridge the gap between Zoom and classroom. Considering whether an online MBA was worth it, Patrick’s response is emphatic.

“It’s just a very rewarding experience all around. I would highly encourage everyone to look into it.” (02:18)

If you’d like to hear from MBA grads from ESMT Berlin directly, get in contact with them via the MBAGRADSCHOOLS Ambassadors Page.

Share this article:

Download our brochure

For more information about the personal data processed by us, please consult our privacy and cookie policy.