Online MBA is no longer a poor cousin of the traditional, full-time format. With top universities offering online MBA programs in addition to the traditional format, the former have gained reputation, both among students and among recruiters.
The fact that online MBA is gaining popularity is vouched by the fact that 15 percent of those aspiring to do an MBA are choosing online courses, according to the QS MBA Applications and Aspirations Report 2018.
According to a Graduate Management Admission Report in 2018, 36 percent of online MBA programs showed a growth in enrollments, compared with 24 percent of full-time, two-year programs.
An MBA, whether online or on-campus, qualifies you for more jobs: according to US Bureau of Statistics reports, MBA jobs are estimated to increase 15 percent until 2022.
So you can bet that you’re better off with an MBA in any format than without it. No wonder that an MBA is the most popular graduate degree in the US with 25 percent of graduates opting for it for their master’s.
Of course, let’s not forget that an MBA helps take your career forward faster, with promotions and pay hikes.
But there are both pluses and minuses? Let’s take the advantages first.
Advantages of online MBA
The MBA curriculum, faculty, and alumni networking of online programs run by top universities, at least, are comparable to their on-campus counterpart.
The same professors draw from the same curriculum as that of on-campus course, and so little is lost by way of quality of courses and teaching.
Critics of the online format say that it loses out on the on-campus experience, with its face-to-face interaction with classmates, professors, and experts.
However, most online programs run by reputed universities bridge this gap through their “meet your class” events, conferences, career fairs, on-campus and international projects, and even “on-campus weeks” to provide students a taste of the campus atmosphere.
It is another myth that online programs don’t offer international exposure. The reach of online programs is such that you are likely to meet international students and professors in teamwork projects.
Chat forums and live, online discussions ensure that you have the advantage of getting to know global business and business players at the click of the mouse.
Most online programs have “open book tests,” and don’t make students learn by rote, preferring a practical approach to testing the assimilation of business theories students are taught. This helps students keep away exam anxiety.
Many online programs require less time (around 14-18 months) for completion. Online MBA programs have flexible academic schedules, with coursework that allows students to watch live video lessons, answer quizzes, and join discussion forums with classmates anywhere on the globe anytime.
Most business schools require their online students to participate in synchronous learning, for example, through videoconferencing. But, simultaneously, online programs also provide the advantage of asynchronous learning, by which students can study lessons through recorded lectures, message boards, and email.
Online MBA is convenient, particularly for people who can stay up late or rise with the lark. They only need a good computer and reliable connectivity.
Another advantage of online MBA is that applicants who wouldn’t have been able to attend the traditional, full-time programs at topnotch MBA schools because of the high tuition can participate in the online format of these schools.
For example, the online MBAs at the IE Business School and the one-year Imperial College Business School’s online programs, both rated at the top by QS, carry a significantly lower price tag compared with their traditional programs ($58,000 and $46,000 online at IE, compared with $82,000 and $66,000 at Imperial, where the traditional program runs for a year).
Admittedly, world-class online programs are expensive. However, with some research, you can zero in on a quality program that would allow you to launch or continue your career and is affordable.
Students of online MBA continue to work during their program, which means they don’t lose out on their salary and they can repay a part of their fee with a part of their salary.
No relocation is required and no costs on this score. There’s no additional commuting, which means cost and time savings. There will also be no on-campus expenses such as textbooks if you take the online route.
Good-quality online MBA programs are conducted by reputed universities and business schools. They can, therefore, be highly valued by some recruiters.
The mention of an MBA from a good school is enough to get a foot in the door. Recruiters may still want to know whether you completed your course online or on-campus.
Another advantage of the online format is that you become well-versed in communication technology such as video-conferencing. This equips you to handle high-tech facilities at your future workplace.
You also learn to use technology for effective communication, a must-have in the digital-age corporate scenario.
Far from the days when recruiters viewed online programs with suspicion, these days they don’t do so, because of the often higher course load that online students take on and the interaction between batch mates from various backgrounds.
Taking up an online course itself signals to recruiters of the student’s determination and a readiness to shoulder heavy workloads.
A top executive of Fiat has been quoted as saying:
People who do online programs have a wealth of experience, work full-time, and manage the demands of their position with the MBA. They display qualities that are important in people we hire—a strong work ethic and project management and critical-thinking skills.
Participants in a student satisfaction survey gave an average rating of over 9.22 to their online programs. Top programs scored even higher—between 9.7 and 10.
Although the requirement of work experience may keep many fresh graduates away from their dream degree, the flip side is that you can both learn business theory and practice it if you are already working, which benefits your organizations, too.
Your company may be ready to sponsor your studies or provide part-tuition if you commit yourself to returning after your MBA.
The admission criterion of work experience is in place to show that you are expected to contribute to the learning experience of other students.
Work experience will also help you to find out what specific area of business administration interests you.
Disadvantages of Online MBA
Absence of the campus experience
What are the negatives? The main drawback is, of course, that online programs miss out on the campus experience, although they may include a few face-to-face classes.
The feel and atmosphere of the campus can hardly be replaced by short projects and programs on campus organized for online students.
Listening to a reputed professor’s class or building enduring relationships with your classmates in a full-time program cannot come close to anything that an online program can offer.
Online students also miss out on schools’ career support system and job fairs. So also an alumni network offered by top-quality schools, which can offer career resources.
Besides, many online programs, particularly those that have only an online presence, do not have internship programs, which is a major drawback.
But online students are typically outside the recruitment net for MBAs, by age and because they are already employed, and so these drawbacks may not matter much.
Need for greater discipline
A full-time program allows you to prioritize your studies and to focus on your program.
However, the online version obliges you to balance your work and family commitments with your MBA. You need to find time in a busy schedule for your coursework by putting your time-management skills to the best use.
A study by Columbia University found that on-campus students are more likely to be able to complete their programs than online students in community colleges.
Studying alone, a student might be tempted to procrastinate and miss tests and assignments. Moreover, some students require instant feedback and guidance, which may not be available in the online format.
Some students feel the need for “full immersion” in their programs to be able to reap full benefit of their course.
Some of these students would rather attend classroom lectures than online sessions. They might find it difficult to complete online courses effectively, which call for greater self-discipline and application.
Another disadvantage is that reputed universities may require you to have more work experience for admission to their online program compared with their traditional program.
Fresh graduates or MBA hopefuls with very little work experience may find it difficult to get selected for admission to a top-business school.
However, this “minus” has to be considered along with the advantages of work experience mentioned earlier.
We mentioned that recruiters may ask you whether you completed your MBA online or on-campus. As long as you have attended an online program of an accredited university, the doors may still open.
But at least a few recruiters and senior professionals tend to look askance at online degrees.
This is true particularly if your degree is not from a well-known school or is from a school that doesn’t have the proper accreditation.
This makes it incumbent on you to check the accreditation and quality of your program. Only proper research can save the student from online degree scams that promise low admission criteria and a quick degree.
Tuition fees may be lower and on-campus expenses may be non-existent, but students will have to invest in fool-proof devices that make online learning possible, such as a reliable, high-speed Internet and personal computer.
Also, a power-back-up system to overcome common power outages. The cost can be low but by no means negligible.
Go for it or not?
Many online MBA graduates reportedly get pay rises and promotions soon after they graduate. Many others find new career paths or better jobs. Online programs have both pluses and minuses.
If you are sure that an MBA will give you a career boost, but you can’t do without your job and salary, or you will be hard-pressed to pay MBA tuition, then online MBA may be the answer.
The trick is to choose a program that best suits you, your learning style, and your requirements and objectives. Good universities and programs make all information available.
Going through all data will help students choose the most suitable online program. And perhaps, save themselves from online MBA scams.
Top schools for online MBA
|Warwick Business School, UK
|IE Business School, Spain
|University of Birmingham, Birmingham Business School, UK
|University of Massachusetts, Amherst, US
|Imperial College Business School, UK
|Johns Hopkins University, Carey Business School, US
|IE Business School, Spain
|Southern California, Marshall, US
|George Mason University, School of Business, US
|Indiana University, Kelley, US
|Warwick Business School, UK
|University of Delaware, Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics, US
|University of North Caroline, Kenan Flagler, US
|Indiana University, Kelley Direct Programs, US
|Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, US
Sources: Websites of FT, QS, and Find MBA
References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
– Are online courses and MOOCs worth it?
– How do employers look at online degrees?
– Why I chose an Online eMBA course over full-time programs