An Online MBA For the Price of a Jeep

Associate Dean Stan Harris

Associate Dean Stan Harris

We’re “looking for solid GPAs and GMATs,” says Harris, who noted that online students were admitted with average GMATs of 596 and average GPAs of 3.15. While Auburn’s admissions team factors in career progression and experience that reflect hard work, commitment, and motivation, their initial screening emphasizes quantifiable rubrics.  “[The program] isn’t watered down. It’s the same thing as the on-campus students get… with the added difficulty of not being in the classroom. We need evidence of why we should trust you to be successful.”

It’s a philosophy that’s embraced by the online student body. That includes D. Hernandez, a 2012 online MBA who appreciates that the program “weeds out potential students who are not willing to do the work.”

What’s more, the $28,000 price tag lands online students the same professors who teach campus students. “Nearly every class is taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty with Ph.D.s,” Harris observes. “We don’t use many adjuncts.” Harris, who has worked at Auburn for over 28 years, also describes the atmosphere as “collegial.” “Our faculty satisfaction is among the highest in the nation. People really like this place.”

A LOW COST TRADITION

To understand Auburn’s low cost proposition, you need to step back to the early 1980s, when Auburn’s College of Engineering was among the pioneers in distance education delivery.  When the distance MBA was launched, they partnered with engineering and piggybacked off their capabilities and expertise. Since then, the online MBA program has been early adopters of technology, increasing efficiency as it evolved from VHS tapes to DVDs to online streaming.

In fact, Harris argues the technology has helped cut costs. “With VHS tapes, we’d mail them across the country…and then scrub and tape over them [when they came back]. So we had huge mailing, hand labor, and infrastructure expenses.” While DVDs were faster to burn, streaming has been a big cost saver for Auburn. “We already had the infrastructure set up” [for streaming] as a university.  “With online, cost has gone down as quality has gone up…The quality of our content has already been high. But the technology frees us to make it even better.”

HOW AUBURN’S PROGRAM WORKS

In some ways, Auburn’s online MBA is similar to other online programs. But Auburn incorporates some key differences that allow online students to stretch their dollar further. At Auburn you won’t find your father’s canned lectures or “PowerPoint Karaoke.” Here, lectures are live captured in a real classroom each year, often with a different professor. In other words, students aren’t watching four year-old classes; they’re observing classes within hours of being conducted.

Auburn also relies on state-of-the-art video equipment and microphones to record lectures. In fact, the routing system is so sophisticated that all seat mikes go off when a student speaks. “We’re trying to give online students the experience that they’re sitting in the back of the classroom…watching it live,” says Harris.

Students can conveniently access lectures through their laptop, SmartPhone, or tablet using the Canvas learning platform. Here, students can access course materials and homework and communicate with classmates via discussion boards and chat rooms. In fact, Harris observes that online students often have parallel discussions on Canvas as on-site students have in class. Online students and faculty stay in touch via email and phone. And Auburn even has the ability to stream live classes if requested in advance.

Harris adds that Auburn takes special pride in its proctoring system for online students. “We spend a lot of time vetting proctors to ensure the integrity of the whole system.”  As a result, exams are often conducted by company human resources managers or community librarians Exams must be completed within 10 days of on campus students taking them. Whether a test was delivered by computer or paper, online students take it the same way with a proctor in the room.