When marketing professor Ed Fox suggests he is “setting the stage” for a new type of online MBA experience, he’s not just using a metaphor. With the launch of the Cox Online MBA (OMBA) program in May, Fox says he is completely rethinking his pedagogy – online as well as in person. Stepping on to a stage reminiscent of TED-talks, Fox imparts analytical insights as he engages a classroom of virtual students. It’s a newfangled laboratory for fresh thinking, enabled by state-of-the-art technology, but grounded in good old-fashioned problem solving.

With the advent of the OMBA, Cox is launching a completely new format of educational delivery. Whereas “old school”online programs were frequently a dry marriage of stagnant PowerPoint slides and talking heads, the Cox program leverages high-end production, set design and virtual classroom interaction. Not only will students enjoy a sophisticated cyber experience, they’ll also be encouraged to interact with each other – as cohorts and on teams.

With an inaugural class of 15 students, SMU Cox has joined a growing number of top business schools opting to offer this new, flexible MBA format. The first class is an enthusiastic group from diverse backgrounds including consultants, entrepreneurs, engineers and even a veterinarian. Cox admissions hopes to eventually reach an enrollment of 500 students.

The Cox OMBA focuses on three foundational pillars essential to business education in the 21st century — leadership, analytics and experiential learning. Online students experience the same rigor, energy and community as those in the on-campus program, but benefit from increased flexibility to work full-time and maintain commitments off-campus, if not around the world.

Unlike students in many online MBA programs, Cox students have the option to take some classes in residence. Shane Goodwin, associate dean of graduate programs and executive education, believes the cohort program will facilitate relationships among classmates via team-oriented classwork and an intimate class experience. The innovative curriculum features engaged learning and immersion projects designed to connect students to real-world business situations for maximum proficiency and application. “Like all SMU Cox degree programs, the Online MBA will prepare students for the changing workforce and not just provide skills to be job-ready,” Goodwin said.

“Offering an Online MBA will help SMU Cox expand access to our one-of-a-kind institution,” Dean Matt Myers added. “We are excited to bring our data-centric ideology to a wider audience of business professionals.” Expanding far beyond the classroom, not to mention the screen, the program features two immersions, with at least one outside the U.S. In December, Cox students will travel to London where faculty from SAID-Oxford and the London School of Economics will join Cox Senior Lecturer Michael Davis to explore the impact of Brexit’s uncertainty and ambiguity on global companies in the UK, as well as on the British economy and society overall. Thought leaders from iconic British innovators like GSK will lead the group through their approach to the challenges posed by the current uncertainty and social decisiveness.

The Cox OMBA program emerged after three years of planning and collaboration. Senior Associate Dean Bill Dillon noted, “We knew we needed to get into this space not only from a revenue or enrollment perspective, but also because students want greater flexibility.” Dillon added, “With the benefits of the latest technology and our ultimate learning objectives, the faculty became convinced this was the right path for the future.”

The OMBA will have the same admission requirements as the on-campus program and can be completed in just over two years. For more information, visit onlinemba.smu.edu.