A version of this post originally appeared on Stacy’s ‘Strictly Business’ MBA blog on U.S. News
Online MBA programs continue to expand in the graduate management education marketplace, with 47% of online MBA programs reporting application growth in 2017, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council’s Application Trends Survey Report. But some stereotypes persist regarding the kind of experience you’ll receive compared to a traditional MBA format.
Many wonder how good the professors online will be, if the instruction really rivals that of students learning on campus, and whether such programs offer the types of scholarships or financial assistance found at full-time MBA programs.
The good news for online MBA applicants, particularly women, whose interest in this format option has outpaced men in recent years, is that several programs continue to deliver an ever more competitive educational experience. Let’s take a look at three important considerations for prospective students, and see how online programs are performing of late.
They Offer Top-Notch Faculty and Instruction
The mark of a high-quality online MBA program lies in who is providing the instruction. “Students take the same classes from the same faculty as they would in our on-campus programs,” says Amy Hillman, dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business and Rusty Lyon Chair in Strategy. “We began offering online degrees in the early 2000s, long before it was as widely accepted as it is now. So, we know from experience how to deliver great content to students and offer a flexible degree that will ultimately help them take that next step in their careers.”
At Temple University’s Fox School of Business, on-campus faculty creates and delivers all course content. The part-time online MBA offered by Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, tied for second in this year’s US News ranking, offers working students flexibility as well as the exact same faculty, curriculum, career planning resources, and degree. Plus, candidates can switch to the full-time format at any time.
When it comes to instruction, the USC Marshall Online MBA program takes an innovative approach, with courses often taught by faculty teams rather than individual professors. “Each course is interdisciplinary, so rather than offering a series of courses on discrete topics such as economics or statistics, OMBA courses are structured around a particular topic such as ‘Managing Inside the Firm’,” explains Miriam Burgos, associate professor of clinical marketing and the academic director of the online MBA program.
“Faculty members, each an expert in a different discipline, teach the course together, providing students with multiple perspectives that may include, for example, marketing, accounting, data analytics and communication. This holistic approach to learning mirrors 21st century global business practices,” Burgos says.
Online MBA faculty often welcome questions from prospective students, so if you would like more information about a particular course, or to learn more about the research interests of a certain faculty member, Burgos suggests contacting the admissions team to ask if you can set up a one-on-one conversation with that professor prior to applying.
Stephen Taylor, assistant dean of graduate programs at the Carey School, says students of the online program enjoy close connections to their faculty and peer students that start on day one. “We believe that a graduate program is a fundamentally collaborative experience; even before a student applies to a program, our admissions team works closely with candidates to understand their goals and to find a program that works best for them.”
They Include Experiential Learning
While experiential learning is now the norm at most traditional business school programs, online MBA programs also recognize the value of bringing real business courses to life and some have introduced similar opportunities for their students as well.
Immersion courses at Kelley Direct Online at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, tied for second place in US News’s latest online MBA program rankings, focus on particular business areas, such as advertising and branding in New York, or the Washington Campus program, which allows students to navigate the gap between business and politics.
Kelley Direct also has a global leadership course known as AGILE—Accelerating Global Leadership Education. Here, students solve thorny business problems in emerging markets, often in conjunction with students from other top business schools around the world.
Ranked 4th this year in US News’s online MBA program rankings, MBA@UNC at University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, has the Student Teams Achieving Results program, or STAR, where students take on the role of consultants to real companies such as NASCAR, GE Healthcare, and Lowe’s Companies, INC. Teams of five to seven students, guided by a faculty advisor and an executive from the client organization, assess real business problems and recommend actionable solutions to the client.
You Can Find Scholarships for Online MBA Programs
According to GMAC’s 2017 Application Trends Report, 38% of online MBA students expect to receive employer support for their studies. For everyone else, know that if you plan to apply for an online MBA at an AACSB International-accredited school, you’ll find that the financial aid process is much the same as for traditional programs. Your first stop for information and assistance should be your online MBA program’s finance department.
Many schools have specific scholarships for online MBA applicants, such as Babson College, which offers merit-based diversity and women’s leadership scholarships for its Blended Learning MBA program. And MBA@UNC awards some partial tuition fellowships to outstanding admitted applicants.
Whether they have grants, scholarships, and loans specific to their school, or special scholarship resources, your online MBA program administrators can point you in the right direction when it comes to financial assistance. For a thorough overview of the subject, visit this online scholarship page on bschool.com.
As you can see, for many busy professionals, an online MBA program makes perfect sense as a way to achieve their career goals through a flexible format that adapts to their schedule. Whichever program you choose in your MBA journey, a great fit with your goals and lifestyle will ensure the best results from application to graduation.