EBS, which had thus far offered courses and a vocational master’s programme to business managers, began to accept daytime students for its International Business Administration (BBA) programme. Despite the fact that several advisors considered the offering of a bachelor’s study programme was too risky a proposition, it was decided that the risk should be taken. Rightly so, since the daytime bachelor’s study programme started out well and was an important prerequisite for the growth of the university.
The successful start to the bachelor’s daytime study programme led Madis Habakuk to also think about offering business administration distance learning. This idea was made all the more intriguing by the fact that distance learning in state owned universities was in bad shape, with many of them closing down these courses. Madis Habakuk found that, since there was a great deal of interest in learning business administration, but that potential students found it difficult to attend school while working full time, they should be offered a different type of learning opportunity.
Madis’ wife, Marje Habakuk, took over direction of the distance learning department that had been founded in the spring of 1993, and in the fall the first group of business administration “Bachelor’s students” began their distance studies. The curriculum had a duration of 4.5 years. “We found that distance learning must be supportive of the student. Since studying while also going to work is complicated, they didn’t go to school on a continuous basis, instead only going three days a week. At the same time the students were always able to ask for advice and help from their instructors. Close ties developed between the school and the student, the student was always able to consult with their instructor, which set us apart from the state universities,” remembers Marje Habakuk.
Another way in which EBS distance learning differed from studying in state universities was in the instructional materials being used. “The school prepared comprehensive study programmes and each instructor developed the teaching and instructional materials for their respective subject. Some wrote it themselves, while others assembled it from available sources. At that time there was no place to purchase instructional materials,” said Marje Habakuk, explaining why such an extensive task had to be undertaken.
The Distance Learning Department then began to make copies of learning materials, so that each student would literally receive a bag of wisdom. “A shopping bag was packed full of A4 format pages,” noted Marje Habakuk, illustrating the volume of learning materials. “The job was quite extensive and went beyond the realm of reason when the evening Business Administration Bachelor’s programme began to be offered in 1995.
At the best of times there were more than 800 students in evening study, and a bag full of learning materials had to be prepared for each them. We had a great group of people in our department, everything was done with enthusiasm and a positive attitude. No one complained about the days getting long and there being too much work”.