Ten Essential Questions For Online MBA Applicants

6. Who will be teaching the program? Ideally you’ll see the same faculty names across a school’s online and full-time MBA programs. You should know whether adjunct and associate professors will be leading your classes, or if you’ll have the opportunity to learn from the school’s cream-of-the-crop tenured professors.  If a school is not committing top faculty members to their online MBA program, a red flag should go up.  You don’t want to end up taking courses from the faculty dumping ground.

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business rotates the standard B-school faculty through its blended Global Executive MBA program.  Kenan-Flagler also uses the same faculty across its online and full-time MBA degree paths.

7. How many hours per week should you expect to devote to the program? Most institutions insist on the same graduation requirements and core curriculum courses across all of their MBA programs (they should, anyway). However, this information is packaged differently. Depending on your current life and work schedule, you’ll most certainly want to know how the courses are structured, and if you can manage the most hectic periods.

MBA@UNC tells applicants that, in addition to the weekly synchronous class sessions, they should expect to dedicate approximately 10 hours per week per class to studying, class preparation and asynchronous sessions.

Babson College sets different expectations for its Fast Track online MBA program, advising applicants that online learning averages 20 hours per week and reflects readings, case preparation, contributing to asynchronous and real-time discussions, and active participation in team-based exercises and projects. Those hours are in addition to on-campus sessions.

Online MBA programs similar to those at the University of Florida and George Washington University require students to attend multiple on-campus residencies.  Students enrolled in Carnegie Mellon’s FlexMBA  should expect to attend 15 “Access Weekends” at one of the school’s campuses in Pittsburgh, New York or Silicon Valley.

8. What are the networking opportunities? Bundled into that hefty MBA price tag is the opportunity to bond with key contacts you’ll hopefully run into later in life.  Say you’re wanting to expand into South America – what about your B-school buddy from Brazil?  For many MBAs the networking supersedes the classroom learning experience in terms of the program’s value 10 to 20 years down the road.

The internet changes things a bit. You’re generally not going to see your peers face-to-face every day or meet them for beers after a long week of exams. That’s why it’s imperative to find out just how many opportunities you’ll have for face-to-face interaction and team-based projects. Ideally, you’ll have at least one in-person meet-up.

You’ll also want to know how the teams are chosen and whether you’ll be with the same team throughout the whole program.  Preferably, the program will have a mix of long-term team projects and short-term networking experiences. In Arizona State’s online MBA program, students are assigned to teams at the beginning and travel through the core curriculum with those same teammates.  After completing their main requirements, students are free to create their own teams. 

Kenan-Flagler groups students  into virtual teams, then pairs each group with a faculty adviser for consulting projects with real-world companies. For one global business project for a large multinational corporation, they pulled in students from other business schools. The project will culminate with two-week visits and presentations in Brazil, China and India.

9. What options does the online MBA program offer for specialization? If you’re eyeing a career in financial accounting, you’ll want to make sure you can attend advanced courses in the field.  If you dig entrepreneurship and aim to start your own company one day, you’ll  want to select a program that will help you stay afloat in the shark tank. Check your online MBA program for potential areas of specialization.

Carnegie Mellon will offer four concentrations in its new program: entrepreneurship, finance, marketing and operations management. MBA@UNC offers concentrations in corporate finance, entrepreneurship, global supply chain management, investment management, marketing and sustainable enterprise. Even when you might not want to target a specific field of study, it’s important to make sure there elective options that appeal to your interests. For instance, students enrolled in the University of Indiana’s Kelley Direct program can choose 12 credit hours from some 60 courses to customize their B-school experience.

10. MBAs offer several pathways to the same degree.  If you discover that the online experience just isn’t working out, it’s worth knowing whether or not you can join the school’s weekend or full-time MBA programs.  The soon-to-be launched FlexMBA at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business allows students to switch into a full-time or part-time degree path after the first year.

A school’s willingness to allow online MBA students into its other programs sends a clear message that the institution isn’t concerned about the caliber of its cyber students.   

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