While the Master of Business Administration, or MBA, is still the gold standard of business degrees, online programs struggle to command the same level of respect that face-to-face instruction does. That perception is beginning to shift dramatically, however, as online programs across the board are becoming de rigueur. For some, the benefits of earning an MBA online will outweigh the disadvantages of traditional on-campus programs.
Value to Employers
According to a 2012 study reported on in “Bloomberg Businessweek,” employers are beginning to let go of some of the prejudices that were once commonly held against online business degrees. That study in the “Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration” found that those in charge of hiring are more willing to consider applicants with an online MBA than in the past. For many professionals, an MBA degree is a means to an end -- usually, a coveted position or long-desired promotion -- and online channels can help them get that diploma quickly and in a more convenient fashion.
For those in the business world, being able to work full-time while earning an advanced degree is an enticing concept, and online MBA programs are built around this high level of access. Most online instruction delivery models allow students to complete assignments and review lessons when and where it works best for them. This flexibility is simply not possible with traditional classroom programs. Even part-time, on-campus MBA programs designed for the fully employed still require the student to commute to school and attend class during prescribed times. Even though online MBAs are typically just as costly when it comes to tuition, flexibility can translate into savings if the student factors in time and travel spared.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but learning in the online realm has been shown to outperform classroom teaching, according to research by the U.S. Department of Education and covered in 2009 by CBS News. Eric Richards, chair of the online MBA program at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, tells CBS that online learners are better able to break down and absorb information, because they do it on their own time. Also, online scholars each get the opportunity to process and then post thoughts for discussion. In a classroom, the most outspoken may dominate the conversation. Other studies, such as 2010 research published in the “American Journal of Business Education,” found that online and traditional MBA coursework come out about even when measuring student learning.
Gaining an Audience
One of the greatest benefits of earning a business degree is the network of colleagues -- alumni, faculty and fellow classmates -- students gain in the process. Online MBA scholars get the same access to this core group, even as distance learners. And with big-name business schools like Duke University offering competitive online MBA programs, it’s an opportunity for students to earn that career-advancing diploma no matter where they reside.
A top concern among MBA candidates is making sure the degree program is backed by an accredited college or university. Rigorous online MBA programs at established institutions tend to mirror the curriculum offered in the face-to-face format. Also, online MBAs are not completely free of stigma. The survey research published in the “Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration” noted that some employers judged candidates with an online degree as less career-driven than candidates who earned MBAs the traditional way.
- Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration: Hiring Managers' Perceptions of the Value of an Online MBA
- Journal of Educators Online: The Effectiveness of an Online MBA Program in Meeting Mid-Career Student Expectations (PDF)
- Journal of Education for Business; The Multifaceted Nature of Online MBA Student Satisfaction and Impacts on Behavioral Intentions; Megan L. Endres et al.
- CBS News: What’s an Online MBA Worth?
- The New York Times: Spend/Thrift: Online MBA Programs Come of Age
- American Journal of Business Education: Learning Effectiveness Using Different Teaching Modalities (PDF)
- Campus Technology: Mastering the Online MBA
- The New York Times: The Online-College Crapshoot
Based in Los Angeles, Monica Stevens has been a professional writer since 2005. She covers topics such as health, education, arts and culture, for a variety of local magazines and newspapers. Stevens holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, with a concentration in film studies, from Pepperdine University.