The Pros and Cons of an Online MBA
Today’s prospective business school students have more options than ever when it comes to MBAs. However, while choice is always a good thing, it can also be overwhelming - particularly when trying to sort through the options in order to find the very best programme. With online MBAs becoming increasingly prevalent, it begs the question: Can they really compete with conventional programmes? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of online MBA degrees.
Today’s online MBA programs are very different to those in years gone by. Increasingly sophisticated technology and the resulting “erosion” of geographical borders have transformed the landscape of higher education. As a result of these changes, today’s online business schools offer a number of appealing benefits, including the following:
1. The Same Education via a Different Format
While the information is distributed differently in online MBA programmes, the typical curriculum is aligned with what you’d learn in a traditional classroom setting. In other words, students get the same education via a different, more convenient format.
As it turns out, freedom from the confines of a conventional classroom can actually facilitate the learning process. According to one online education system administrator in the U.S., “There is a growing body of evidence that suggest that the quality of online learning outcomes — how students test — is actually better than that of face-to-face instruction.”
One particular reason why online MBA in Business programmes and their graduates are so successful is that real-world learning opportunities are plentiful. While students in conventional MBA programmes may do the majority of their learning from case studies, online MBA students have many opportunities to apply their newfound knowledge and skills in true business settings. The ongoing process of applying theories to practice is a key management development technique.
2. Unprecedented Flexibility
In a “bricks and mortar” MBA programme, there’s little to no flexibility. Classes take place on a pre-set day at a pre-set time. Unfortunately, this can close doors on non-conventional students, such as those holding full-time jobs or raising a family. In online programmes, students are held to the same expectations as students in conventional programmes but enjoy the flexibility to meet those expectations according to their own individual schedules and needs.
3. Credibility Matters
As recently as 20 years ago, online business degrees were stigmatised by students and employers alike. However, times have drastically changed, and with them perceptions about online MBAs.
In fact, in our increasingly techno-centric world, online MBAs demonstrate sought-after familiarity with technology. Factor in the demand for qualified business leaders with these skills, and the benefits of an online MBA become even clearer.
There are several budgetary benefits associated with online MBA programmes. Because of their comparatively low operating costs versus conventional programmes, tuition fees are usually lower. This means you get exactly the same degree and all of the benefits of that degree at a significantly reduced price. If that’s not already practising smart business sense, what is?
Additionally, students have increased flexibility when it comes to payment schedules. By choosing a longer course of study, for example, your monthly payments become more affordable. Not only are these reduced payments easier for budget-minded students, but they may also be more appealing to employers willing to sponsor some or all of your continuing education.
Of course, just as all conventional MBA programmes aren’t created equal, nor are all online MBAs. Practising due diligence can help you find a school that embodies the very best that online education has to offer.
Consider the Imperial Global Online MBA, for example. This world-class programme offers all of the benefits of a premier business school education in a cutting edge online setting. A global community, high-tech teaching tools, a collaborative approach, exactly the same certificate as the full time course, triple accreditation and customizable learning opportunities are just a few of the elements that make this school such a stand-out in the competitive MBA field.
There’s also its stellar reputation, including top 10 placements within both the “QS World University Rankings 2015/16” and “The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015/16,” as well as a third place finish on “The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016’s” list of the UK's best universities.
There are some additional factors to consider, however, before committing to an online MBA programme. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of the potential downsides of online learning.
1. It can be an Isolating Experience
Any business school graduate will tell you that business school is not just about the curriculum, but also about the experience. A large part of this is the connections made throughout the programme. In some cases, finding this same experience in an online programme can be a challenge - particularly in the case of schools still relying on traditional platforms, such as Blackboard and Moodle, in which the flow of information may be more unidirectional.
In other cases, however, programmes offer built-in opportunities for student collaboration and communication. In fact, schools like Imperial which offer bespoke online learning programmes truly shine when it comes to delivering an integrative and immersive experience through their “HUB”. Meanwhile, a commitment to modern, mobile technology means opportunities for engagement and interaction abound.
Before deciding on an online MBA programme, be sure to look into where your prospective schools fall on the spectrum when it comes to cultivating relationships between students.
Of course, it’s not just the interactions that matter, but also how rich they are in terms of fostering dialogue and promoting information exchange. International community is just the start when it comes to diversity. Due to many online MBA students being older and having been in the workforce longer, they offer a particularly valuable viewpoint which might otherwise be missing in a conventional classroom setting.
2. It may Take Longer
While some physical MBA programmes can be completed in as little as a year, online MBAs typically take longer - particularly if you’re juggling other commitments in addition to school.
While a shorter programme may be financially advantageous, it can also result in a rushed experience. Can you really learn everything you need to learn to become a business leader in a short 12 months? Many employers feel that the answer to this question is an unfortunate “no.” In other words, while online programmes may take longer, they're also more likely to be more comprehensive.
Additionally, some experts also believe that online environments allow students to more thoroughly take in and retain information, due to the fact that they can work at their own pace while grappling with questions, allowing true comprehension.
Still not convinced? Consider a Department of Education report which concludes that online students perform better in exams and get better grades than those in conventional classrooms.
Ultimately, while neither conventional nor online MBA programmes are “better” than the other in a vacuum, they do each offer a different route to the same objectives and outcomes. The key when deciding between the two is matching your wants, preferences and needs with the specifics of each prospective programme.
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Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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