Could a “Hybrid” MBA Be Right For You?

So-called “hybrid” MBA programs, which combine online instruction with limited on-campus time, have grown in popularity as more and more B-school students want the brand-name program without uprooting their current work and family commitments.

According to Diana Middleton‘s piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, these hybrid programs, which cost less to run in part because students use fewer campus services and resources, have been a blessing for schools in dire need of a revenue infusion due to dwindling endowments and lackluster alumni donations.

Creating a hybrid program can cost a school anywhere from several hundred thousand dollars to upwards of $1 million, but the cost to keep the programs going are relatively low, says Dan LeClair, vice president and chief knowledge officer at the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Professors and schools do the bulk of the work or preparation upfront but contribute less face time as time goes on, Middleton explains.

So, how are the hybrid programs different from traditional campus MBA programs?

  • Hybrid programs tend to have less stringent admission standards.
  • Hybrid programs often cut out elective courses.
  • Students in hybrid programs typically have less access to faculty or campus resources–particularly career services.

Some may feel this last characteristic, reduced face time with faculty and personal interaction with peers, may be too great a sacrifice, as many B-school grads say the networking is the most valuable part of an MBA.

Despite any potential drawbacks, hybrid programs do seem to be the wave of the future as more applicants turn to this flexible alternative. Duke University’s Cross Continent MBA, which is delivered 60% online, for example, saw a 50% increase in applications over last year for the class beginning in August, WSJ reveals.

Duke/Fuqua School of Business and other schools that offer these combo programs, like Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and Babson College, insist that despite the obvious differences, the option provides the same training as a typical MBA program while expanding the schools’ reach.

The hybrid MBA concept is still too new to fully gauge how employers feel about candidates with this qualification, some of whom may be wary about the integrity of programs that rely heavily on Web-based technology.

However, John Williams, a 2005 grad of Duke’s Cross Continent MBA program, tells the WSJ that completing the program enabled him to command a higher salary and position at a technology-market-research firm.

“For most employers, they said it was a good school, it sounds like a good program, and that’s good enough for them,” he says.
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