Babson, which has consistently been ranked No. 1 for teaching entrepreneurship by business school deans, began its foray into online education with a custom MBA program for upwardly mobile managers of Intel Corp., the Silicon Valley-based pioneer in circuit chips. Launched in the summer of 2001, the Babson/Intel MBA was a popular and innovative 27-month program that combined face-to-face sessions with Internet learning. Each month the Intel students, who came from all over the country, met face-to-face with each other and Babson professors on a Thursday afternoon through Saturday evening at one of three Intel locations in Portland, Santa Clara or Phoenix)or at the Babson campus. The rest of the program was done online.
The school opened its 21-month Fast Track MBA program to the public in 2007 with just 26 students, but has impressively grown the program over the years. In May of 2013, Babson graduated a class of close to 140 online students. At any given time, the school has an online enrollment of up to 350 MBA candidates, says Michael Cummings, the faculty director.
What does a typical cohort look like? The average age is about 34, though there’s a wide range of people in this program, ranging from 25 to 52. The average amount of work experience is a dozen years, though that, too, ranges from five to 29 years. Nearly a third are women and just over 20% are international, coming from India, Australia, France, Italy, Ireland, and Russia. As you would expect, Babson draws heavily on upwardly mobile professionals in the New England states as well as California.
The Fast Track program is no vacation. If you want to earn your MBA by coasting through, students say Babson isn’t the place for you.
Babson College says students who graduated in 2010 from its Fast Track MBA program averaged a 30% increase in pay by the time they left with their online degrees. “They certainly didn’t graduate during the flush years of the economy yet they were getting substantial increases in pay,” says Cummings. “They get promoted. They get great new jobs.”
The program’s highlights:
- Fast Track begins with an intense, five-day, 1-credit session for all new Fast Track students on the Wellesley campus, offering complete immersion into the program.
- Online learning accounts for an average of 20 hours per week spent in readings, case preparation, contributing to asynchronous and real-time discussions, and actively participating in team-based exercises and projects.
- In the face-to-face sessions, the cohort comes together for a total of 14 classroom sessions; approximately every seven weeks for 2 1/2 days (Thursday afternoon – Saturday).
- Students have flexibility in satisfying their elective requirements. They may choose from a subset of courses in the Elective Curriculum, Babson Executive Education courses, as well as Independent Research projects and Management Consulting Field Experiences (MCFE).
- Finally, in the Capstone, students form teams and develop a business plan based either on a project identified within their companies or a “greenfield” project.
FORMAT: Like most of the best online MBA programs, Babson Fast Track is a hybrid program, with the 14 classroom sessions over a 21-month period and online instruction. The program kicks off with a five-day immersion on the Wellesley campus where you’ll get to meet your cohort classmates.
Students tackle a capstone project during their study: crafting a business plan for a startup or a new business inside an existing corporation.
Some 46 credits are required to graduate from the program.
COST: $78,200, plus roughly $3,000 for the cost of books and other course materials. Students also are responsible for their travel arrangements and expenses.
START DATES: Twice a year in March and September
TIME TO COMPLETE: 21 months
PLATFORM REVIEW: The technology here is secondary to the quality of the face-to-face sessions which are frequent enough for students to develop significant community and bonding. The school uses a variety of things to make its online sessions work effectively, including Blackboard.
RANKINGS: For many years Babson has been ranked first in entrepreneurship by business school deans in the U.S. News & World Report annual surveys. Based on the school’s overall standing in Poets&Quants’ rankings, we rate Fast Track as one of the top five online MBAs in the U.S.
STUDENT COMMENTS: “First and foremost you are studying with a great cohort of classmates – people working in a variety of industries, companies, and roles from all over the world. The professors are another strength as they really are in a class of their own because Babson purposefully chooses professors who have ongoing businesses and careers outside of the academic ivory tower. This provides a real world touchstone to all classes and lectures elevating the discussions from the normal theoretical perfect world scenarios to practical reality based solutions. Which is where most of us work.
“Finally the intense entrepreneurial focus is intertwined throughout every case discussion, project and class. Whether it is finance, marketing, operations, sales or technology – an entrepreneur has to be comfortable with all of those disciplines and many more. And know when to bring each to bear on a business issue or problem. Whether it’s internally on a project within a company or as part of bootstrapping a new entrepreneurial venture – your chances for success are greatly enhanced when you both work hard and have the tools for that success.
“One of the strengths of the Fast Track MBA is that the average work experience of my classmates was 8-10 years; with some having over 20 years of experience in their fields. And they weren’t there just to get a ticket punched, but rather they were there to learn practical and useful skills. This dramatically changed the MBA experience from a passive rote learning of facts and formulas to an engaged, passionate, dynamic learning environment incorporating experiences from real-life problems and challenges applicable both to startups and to projects within more mature organizations.”