It’s true that an in-person classroom experience has value — but remote learning does have its advantages.
Given how much all the business schools have now invested into online offerings over the course of the past year, you just know that they’re going to be embracing this even more as the future unfolds. Presumably all schools will be fully back in session in the Fall with in-person offerings. However, there has been enough evidence now that a certain contingent of students actually PREFERS online education that many forward-thinking (and some opportunist) schools will be leveraging this unexpected development.
As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. All schools had some online offerings, but most of higher ed laggards when it comes to technology in general, and there was enough stigma against online learning that it wasn’t exactly being pursued as a viable delivery format at many top schools.
Now though, many students are saying that they would like to have options to take at least some courses online, even when they’re back on campus. Plus, there are some segments of the MBA marketplace where a mostly online experience would actually be preferred. Most obvious, this is the executive MBA segment, as well as the evenings and weekends cohorts at schools like Kellogg, NYU, Booth, and Berkeley. Those part-time programs have already been catering to working professionals who choose not to quit their jobs in order to go back to school. Many of them have families, and are therefore already juggling a lot (especially if you’re trying to raise kids right now, during a pandemic — that’s a whole set of other challenges too!).
A few top schools, including Duke, Ross, UNC, and UCLA, had been pioneers in the online MBA space, but those programs were not the crown jewels in their respective portfolios. Now though, there is suddenly an increased interest, and much more broad-based acceptance, and a willingness to explore how an online education might actually work, with many more tools being deployed, and lots of innovation in the space.
If you’re someone who is able to self-motivate, who doesn’t mind working independently along with doing lots of class projects and meetings on Zoom, and you’re currently thinking about where you might want to apply in the coming year… An online MBA might be a more interesting option starting this year than it ever has been before. The challenges with learning online are that it can feel isolating and lonely. However, if you’re going to start an online-only or hybrid/blended program later this year, then it’s likely that program will include some on-campus immersive experiences too. Very very few MBA programs are going to be conducted entirely online. You’ll have to bake into your work schedule and travel budget enough accommodations for those in-person experiences, which for a two-year program might be around 4 to 6 trips to campus. That means you can live far away and still do the MBA at a school in another city.
You’ll have to consider the timezone, and how easy it might be for you to participate in the synchronized sessions. These types of programs aren’t simply reading stuff on a bulletin board and making text-based posts for a professor to review, which may have been your experience with online courses pre-covid. Instead, you’ll be in a classroom lecture with other students — not an awesome experience when done on Zoom but many professors have upped their online game and are deploying techniques to keep you engaged and interested. There are small-group breakouts, and whiteboards, and quizzes, and all sorts of interactivity.
What you don’t get with the online programs is any reduction in cost; it’s kind of ridiculous that they get away with charging the same high tuition rates even when there is no actual classroom space and facilities involved. Yes there’s software licensing and Zoom fees and bandwidth and all that, which is not insignificant for the school, but they are not maintaining ivy-covered buildings and keeping the lights on and sidewalks ploughed free of snow. You’d think they’d make adjustments to rates, but that we have not seen.
The stigma against online education is pretty much a non-issue now that covid has forced adoption of this across the world. No it’s not an equivalent experience; no you don’t get the handshakes and free pizza when the recruiters come to campus to woo you to their firms. Networking is not the same at all. Interviewing is tough. You have to do more on your own.
But the flexibility is a huge advantage, and we also are seeing schools increase the size of their class, which benefits everyone.
If you’re starting out with your research into MBA options, an online MBA or hybrid option might be worth exploring now that the world is changing. It’s going to be a more accessible and much more attractive option for more students going forward.