Online MBA vs Regular MBA: Full-time classroom MBA under threat?

All these years, the debate was limited to online MBA vs part-time MBA. Or online MBA vs Executive MBA. Traditional, full-time, classroom MBA programs weren’t dragged into the discussion.

Recently, a top academician (the Dean of Haas Business School) looked into his Crystal Ball to make a radical prediction that seems to be rocking that very pedestal. If his forecast turns true, half of the business schools in USA will close down in the next 10 years. Shocking enough? Vinay Paramanand reports.


Online MBA vs Regular MBA: Traditional classroom MBA under threat?

by Vinay Paramanand

We have seen the advent of Online MBA programs while browsing through MBA related sites. Some find it the best way to get an MBA degree, specially when there are personal or financial constraints due to which they cannot attend the regular classes.

Well, some do have reservations about whether online MBAs are really worth it. The concern stems from the fact that in the online MBA vs regular, traditional MBA, the virtual ones do not offer peer interaction, real world experience and the same immersive experience compared to their full-time counterparts.

However, all said and done some (including some influential movers and shakers from the academic field) believe that Online MBAs are here to stay.

Let us look at what is happening around the globe in this space. For starters, Richard Lyons, the Dean of University of California Haas Business School (among the top ranking and most respected business schools in USA) is of the opinion that Online MBAs could very well dominate the traditional MBA learning.

Dean Lyons points out that the revenue generated by students pursuing either Part Time MBA or Executive MBA (here’s a list of the best Executive MBA Programs) constitutes the larger portion of revenue to the University.

These programs could face stiff completion from online programs for the same students interested in part time or executive MBA. He concludes that most business schools of USA could be wiped off in 5-10 years.

The prospect of an online MBA is also important if we look into the cost factor to the University. The University could save a lot of money (though that depends on various factors) on an online program. Students too have an advantage, they could do this while they work, be offered a course in their preferred language, informal setting and importantly have the brand name of the college on their resume.

Some tier 2 and tier 3 schools such as Kelley Business School, Eller School of management have already begun Online MBA programs. These schools plan to add more students by offering a virtual environment to interact with employers (Yes, that’s right!), and online mentoring program. Some go a step further and offer 3-4 days residency class to give the feel of a classroom atmosphere.

Limitations of online MBA vs regular full-time MBA

There are several reasons why online MBAs weren’t considered to be on par with full-time MBAs.

  1. Credibility-Unless the college or Business school that is offering the online program is well known in the job market, you are staring down the barrel.
  2. Peer Group- One loses out on the very important part of a regular MBA, the peer group interaction. This in itself is an eye opener to many regular MBA students and has very well served as inspiration for many to compete, and be successful.
  3. No Internship- A small but very possible way of getting into the company one dreams working for. Internship is one thing that students look forward too since it provide them an opportunity to focus on their career, and choose the sector or area they want to work in future
  4. Lose out on interaction with alumni, prospective employers, in short networking opportunity- Probably a very important part of an MBA program would be networking. A critical aspect of a classroom MBA program that acts as a platform for students to interact with the business world and meet the “All Important People”, people who matter.

The rise of MOOCs

There is buzz that the prestigious B-schools such as Harvard, MIT and Stanford are gearing up to offer Online MBA programs as MOOCs. So, what is MOOC?

Wiki defines MOOC as “A Massive Open Online Course is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs).”

Examples of some successful MOOCs would be:

  1. Coursera- A for profit entity with participating Universities, which include the likes of University of Maryland, Wharton School, University of Virginia (Darden), Stanford University.
  2. edX- A not for profit entity comprising of (this is serious!) MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley

In simpler terms it is an online course, offered over the web and meant to be informative, interactive to all parties concerned, just like a classroom course would be.

MOOC uses the internet and latest IT technologies to offer video lectures, an advanced form of classroom lectures for its students, and online assessment of students through quizzes and questionnaires. Plans are also afoot to make them interactive.

Giving the MOOC phenomenon more power is the entry of senior academicians. Mr. Richard Levin, Ex-President of Yale University has joined “Coursera”, so you can imagine how serious they are about getting into the online MBA programs space.

Kenan Flagler, for instance, has launched its new online MBA program “MBA@UNC”. Georgia Tech is offering MS program though online mode now. The success is not restricted to USA alone, non-US Universities such as HKUST, University of New South Wales are in the list too.

It is apparent that other (financially sound) business schools would jump into this. Many not-for-profit organizations such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, American Council on Education, Universities such as Harvard, MIT, Stanford, UNC, Universoty of Texas at Austin and even prominent venture capitalists have shown interest in this sector. India can’t be far behind with IIT Bombay joining this list!

It will be soon rather than later that everyone will be vying to cash in on this opportunity. Online programs are the next big thing. It would offer a prospective student a chance to learn from a reputed school just sitting in his/her chair at home.

A word of advice if you are thinking of enrolling for an online MBA program. Don’t get carried away by the hype. Verify the credibility of the course being offered, the college involved, the money(it would be largely self-financed for most students), the time invested. Consider the flipsides as well, of not interacting with peers and losing out on internship opportunities and networking.


Read these related posts:
Best Online MBA Programs.
Harvard online certificate courses (Interview with HBX Executive Director)

If your focus is on gaining knowledge rather than a certificate / degree, try out these Free online business simulation games.


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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

5 Comments

  1. Niti says:

    Hi Sameer,

    Iam a working professionanl with around 8 yrs of exp in IT web design and development. Now I am looking for a growth in management level with masters in IT, and I am confused what to choose, to get admission in any IIM college or to go for distance online degree. Please suggest.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Sameer Kamat says:

    Niti: If you have the flexibility of leaving your job and going for a full-time progam, that would be highly recommended. Distance degrees haven’t graduated to the level where they can compete with full-time degrees for credibility and market value.

    Btw, I’m not sure why you are targetting IIMs if you are looking for a technical degree.

  3. Vijendra Padwal says:

    Daer Sameer Greetings!

    Iam working professional with 9+ Years of experience into IT on Storage,Servers,Virtulization of Implementations and presales. Willing to Do Masters into Strategic planning on business. Completed my Graduations in 2013. Due to work & abroad opportunity I was out of India for 4 years and hence completed my Grads from Distance Education. Now back to INDIA working as a Manager-Technology Consulting in Ex-Company..Do you suggest Courses Offered IN association with NIIT-IMPERIA +IIMs-CALCUTTA,LUCKNOW,IIFT-Delhi would be a value add?.

    Please Suggest!

    To keep u posted I hv been reading ur good book Beyond MBA HYPE Found really fantastic..Warm Hearted Thanks a lot to you for creating such a Informative Resource For all peoples like us.

    Thanks & Regards
    Vijendra Padwal

  4. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Vijendra: We don’t ‘suggest’ or ‘recommend’ any online courses. We’ ve only listed the international ones here that have been creating a buzz.

    You’ll have to define for yourself what ‘value add’ means from your perspective. If it means getting a better overall idea of various management theories, then sure any good course is fine.

    However, if you are hoping to use it to change careers or get a significant credibility jump , you’ll be disappointed.

    Glad that you liked Beyond The MBA Hype.

    Food for thought. If a full-time MBA degree can have all the issues mentioned in the book, how will online MBAs fare in comparison?

  5. jewelann says:

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