Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business is a pioneer in online MBA education, having launched its Kelley Direct program in 1999. Until the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina entered its first MBA@UNC class in the fall of 2011, it was the only highly ranked school offering an online MBA. So Kelley has deep experience in the space, having graduated more than 1,300 with online MBA degrees.
Kelley’s program, moreover, has been so successful that for the first time, in 2012, the school enrolled more MBA students online than it did in its traditional full-time, on-campus program.
The program is taught by the same faculty who teach in Kelley’s full-time MBA program, though the students here tend to be older, with nine years of work experience.
In addition to the online MBA, the school also offers the following online degrees: an MS in finance, an MS in global supply chain management, an MS in marketing, and an MS in strategic management.
FORMAT: Kelley Direct offers students unusual flexibility in studying for an MBA. Because all the classes are recorded and archived, there are no required times to be online. That differs significantly from the MBA@UNC program which does one “live” class per week. Instead, at Kelley you interact with classmates and professors through discussion forums and “optional online meeting sessions” which are always recorded as well. The program kicks off with a “Connect Week” on the school’s beautiful Bloomington, Ind., campus. A second “connect week” occurs at the start of the second year, providing students the chance to build deeper relationships with each other than would be possible only online.
Students tackle a capstone project during their study: crafting a business plan for a startup or a new business inside an existing corporation.
Some 39 of the 51 credits required to graduate are devoted to the core curriculum of business basics, such as finance, accounting, marketing, and statistics. The remaining dozen credits are to be used on a fairly deep menu of 50 electives. A full course load is considered six credit hours per term.
START DATES: Twice a year in the spring and fall
TIME TO COMPLETE: Two to five years
PLATFORM REVIEW: Nothing fancy here, but it’s user friendly and it works. You log into ANGEL, the school’s online learning-management system where you’ll be able to access your course materials, submit assignments, communicate with your instructor, receive course announcements, and communicate with other students in the course. Everything is fairly functional. There are separate tabs for your courses, community groups, a personal calendar, a place for bookmarks and files, and a mail box. Your grade in each course is tracked by homework, quizzes and exams against the class average. And all the lessons for the course are neatly arranged, with accompanying videos and assignments.
RANKINGS: Kelley consistently ranks among the top 25 business schools in the U.S. There are only two schools with online options that rank higher: Carnegie Mellon and UNC. But Indiana has been at this longest than its two top rivals combined. In U.S. News & World Report’s debut ranking of online MBA programs in 2013, Kelley Direct was ranked third, behind only Washington State and Arizona State universities. When The Economist last examined distance learning MBAs in 2010, Indiana was one of the five most highly rated programs. For our money, this is one of the top three online MBA options in the U.S., competing directly with Carnegie Mellon and UNC.
STUDENT COMMENTS TO P&Q: I am currently an Indiana Kelley Direct student and I think the online format works fantastic. Of course, being a student, my bias is going to be in the direction that it is just as good, but I will tell you why I think that: First, we started off our cohort with two intense weeks in Bloomington where we all got to know each other very well (there are about 28 of us and when I say two intense weeks, I mean two weeks including Saturdays and Sundays). After that, we all worked together pretty strongly – since everyone knows one another, we’re all reliable to each other. With “Angel” (Kelley’s format for program delivery), Google Hangout, Email, Smart phones etc, I don’t see why there is a presumption it is difficult to learn with technology.
Most classes require us to be “online ” at a specific time each week where we have class – we see and hear the professor and “chat” to ask questions. Meanwhile, I didn’t have to quit my job (nor did my colleagues obviously) and we use our ever growing work experience to emphasize and discuss how the principles we learn are applicable to real life situations. As far as being easy; it’s anything but. I work quite hard and put in many hours each week – to be honest, if this is an “MBA-lite,” I don’t think I could handle the real thing, at least not while working. What I do know is that I have awesome colleagues from all walks of reputable professional life (investors, Rolls Royce engineers, Intel financial advisers etc) and the same faculty and degree from a top 15/top 25 school (depending on the rankings you like).