Online MBAs Gaining Popularity, Prestige

According to the website Poets and Quants, “About 11,000 MBA students are currently studying for online MBAs at some 90 schools accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.” The number of students pursuing their online MBAs further increases when including for-profit companies such as The University of Phoenix, which currently boasts over 30,000 enrolled MBA students.

Despite the numbers, many have raised doubts about the quality of online MBA degrees. Dave Wilson, CEO of the Graduate Management Admission Council, which oversees the GMAT exam, told Poets and Quants that while “rudimentary” courses can be taught online, “I’m not convinced you can use technology for deeper Socratic inquiries between a professor and the students.”

However, a number of top institutions have already responded to the viability of the online model and have added this option alongside their traditional programs.

The latest to join is the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, which plans to enroll 50 students in its inaugural MBA@UNC online program, with classes beginning July 4th of this year. The two-year program includes up to four weekend residencies and the chance to study with Kenan-Flagler’s esteemed faculty. Other highly-ranked programs already successfully offering online degree options are Spain’s IE Business School and Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

SUNY Oswego, part of the State University of New York, is an up-and-coming program accredited by the AACSB that launched its own online MBA degree program in late January. In its case, SUNY Oswego wants to reverse the perception that online programs are easier or require less commitment. Customizable electives, optional concentrations, and targeted internships are still a key part of the online program. And although the program is online, students will not be alone, says the school.

So does this mean that getting your degree online will eventually lose the stigma?

Ian Van Tuyl, whose company 2tor Inc. is supplying the technology platform for UNC’s online courses, provided Poets and Quants with a hopeful analogy: “Ten or 12 years ago, online dating seemed to have some scary edge to it. Today even your grandmother is urging you to go online and find someone. My sense is that online degrees will become as accepted as online dating is today.”

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