Dr Kristie Thomas joined Aston Law as Senior Lecturer in January 2017. She previously worked as Lecturer in Business Law at Nottingham University Business School from 2008-2016, where she also held the position of Director of Executive MBA Programmes. She also gained her PhD from Nottingham in 2008, exploring the changes in enforcement of intellectual property rights in China after joining the World Trade Organisation in 2001. She also holds a MA Chinese Studies (with Distinction) from the University of Leeds and her undergraduate law degree was completed at the University of Sheffield.
Below Dr Kristie Thomas talks about her area of expertise – the interaction of law and business, particularly in China - and the kinds of things students can expect in her class:
Dr Kristie Thomas, can you talk a little bit about your role in the MBA programme at Aston and your area of expertise?
I’m the Programme Director for the Aston Online MBA programme which means that I’m responsible for overseeing the content of the programme, students’ progression through the programme, and planning for future changes to the programme. My research interests combine my academic background in studying law and China, and focus on aspects of the Chinese legal system relating to business- recently including topics such as product liability, consumer protection and e-commerce.
I am also the module leader for an optional module ‘Legal challenges: Starting an innovative business’ which offers our Online MBA students the opportunity to explore this interaction between law and business in more detail and it’s a topic that we are finding that students are increasingly interested in- any senior business person can’t afford to ignore their potential legal liability!
What are some things students can expect in your class and how would you describe your approach to teaching?
The Aston MBA approach is all about active learning through applying cutting-edge academic research and theories to real-life business and management issues. Students can expect to share their experiences from their career to date with other students so the whole cohort can benefit from sharing how specific issues are tackled in different industries, in different functions, and in different countries around the world.
Having said that, one of the key benefits of studying the Aston Online MBA programme is the flexibility of accessing the course content at a time and place to fit around students’ already busy lives. So overall, students can expect to be challenged with thought provoking real-life content, to interact with fellow MBA students around the world, and to be able to flex the programme around their existing commitments.
Obviously, digital marketing is huge now. Is there a big difference between how consumers have traditionally behaved and how they now behave in a digital environment? Or has their behaviour been relatively consistent - we just have different platforms now?
I think in terms of student admissions, digital technology offers us some great new ways to interact with potential students when they’re considering joining the programme. For example, we can invite students to relevant webinars and masterclasses to enable them to learn more about Aston Business School from the comfort of their home. So in my opinion, student questions and concerns are relatively similar over time, but the digital environment just allows us to interact in more diverse ways.
Overall, do you feel that the MBA programme is keeping pace with the rapidly changing environment of business? How has Aston kept pace and integrated technology into its programme?
It’s really important that our Online MBA programme is relevant to the real-life modern business context. Our students will be going on to become senior leaders in a variety of industries around the world, so it is important that they are equipped for contemporary challenges. Aston has also led the way in integrating technology into its programmes. However, as the business environment is changing so rapidly, it’s almost more important to equip students with adaptability- if they can adapt to new changes, then they can deal with any challenges that might come their way in the future. So this adaptability is something which we strive to embed in our students throughout the programme.
Some students might be a bit inexperienced in learning online, what advice or tips would you have for them? What are some things you think would be important for them to know?
Most of our Online MBA students have never studied online before so adapting to the online learning environment is a common worry. However, we offer a structured induction programme of four live webinars before students formally start their first module to cover key topics such as how to use the virtual learning environment, how to work together online, and what study skills are key to succeed when studying online. This induction programme can help students to practise navigating around the online content as well as introducing them to other new students, to reassure them that actually, it’s a flexible, enjoyable and stimulating way to study!
Thank you for your time. Is there anything you feel is important that you’d like prospective students to know about the programme that we didn’t cover?
I think it’s important for prospective students to know that studying for an MBA online is not some kind of second-class experience compared to studying face-to-face. At Aston, we work hard to ensure that all our MBA students, whether full-time, part-time, or online, benefit from the same level of support, the same level of expertise, and the same level of resources.