Bringing prestige and status to the online MBA

When the dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina first raised the idea of ​​launching an online MBA program, his faculty and students were very skeptical. "Many of our full-time MBA students are not convinced that this is a good idea," says Dean James W. Dean. "They underestimate the challenge of what it is for people to stay in their jobs and work and study to get the degree."

Even Dean admits he had doubts. "To be honest, I was initially skeptical," he says. "I asked myself: Can you really do an online MBA that you can be proud of?" I came to the idea that this was a great opportunity for us and that it could change the nature of business education in the best schools. "

The result: this July, Kenan-Flagler will be the best-qualified business school in the United States to offer an online MBA program. In the initial class, the school expects to enroll 50 students at a cost of $ 89,000 each, a price that includes up to four weekend residences in different parts of the world. UNC is partnering with 2tor Inc., a company that provides the technological platform and educational design to teach online courses.

The two-year program, called MBA @ UNC, will feature pre-established live sessions that use live video streaming, as well as archived conferences and interactive simulations that can be accessed 24/7. Case studies and conference discussions will also be conducted in real time and through forums. "The level of intimacy will be at least as high or higher than in the classroom because there are fewer people involved," says Dean. "You can hide in the last row of a classroom, but if you're one of the ten on a computer screen you can not."


Online MBAs, of course, are nothing new. Around 11,000 MBA students are currently studying online MBAs in about 90 schools accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools, the same accreditation body that approves Harvard and Stanford's of the B-school world. Accredited institutions with online MBA programs include the University of Florida, Arizona State and Penn State. The largest for-profit player, the University of Phoenix, has been offering an online MBA since 1989. More than half of its 66,000 graduate students are registered as MBA candidates, and Phoenix now buys more case studies at the School Harvard Business School than any other institution.

But very few of the online players have the prestige of the Kenan-Flagler Business School, which is usually among the top 20 MBA programs in the United States. "If we look at the trend, it started that the only suppliers were of low quality and low reputation," says Dean. "In recent years, there has been a gradual migration to the top, so there are many reputable schools offering these programs, following the pattern of disruptive innovation, which starts from the outside and then breaks through."

Some believe that high-quality MBA degrees are likely to follow the pattern of how online dating has become socially acceptable. "Ten or twelve years ago, online dating seemed to be somewhat scary," says Ian Van Tuyl, who as vice president Production at 2tor is working with the UNC faculty to build the curriculum. "Today, even your grandmother is urging you to connect to the Internet and find someone. My feeling is that online titles will be as accepted as online dating is today. "

IE Business School in Spain could be said to have the high-status online global program available today. The 15-month program has four cohorts of 32 students per year, three in English and one in Spanish. With the exception of two one-week residencies on its main campus in Madrid, the entire program is online (see the story in IE's Global Online MBA). The cost: around $ 50,000 for an MBA. Since the program's launch in 2001, IE has produced around 1,000 MBAs, a number that includes graduates in its business master's programs specializing in sports, digital marketing and biotechnology. "We are facing our competitors and we can not believe they are not getting into this," says David Bach, associate dean of the MBA programs at IE. "There will be many more of these programs in the best schools. Companies have not cut training and development as much as they have cut travel. So, if it can provide high quality instruction anywhere in the world without people having to get on a plane, that's a competitive advantage. "


In the USA UU., The pioneering best-qualified institution so far has been the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. With ten years of age, Kelley Direct has 1,500 current students in five continents, with approximately 40% of them in graduate programs in partnership with firms such as John Deere, United Technologies and Cummins. The Indiana program also requires two week-long residencies at its main campus in Bloomington.

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