The Most Successful Wharton Grads


What to Look For in Online MBA Faculty


“A student is only as good as his teacher.”

For some, that may sound like an excuse from a C student. When it comes to choosing an online MBA, it’s savvy advice.

Alas, teaching may not top your checklist when you apply to an online program. Chances are, you’ve listed cost and flexibility there. But the quality of instructors – and their ability to teach an online audience – can make-or-break the student experience. According to U.S. News and World Report, there are several variables to weigh when it comes to instructors.

For starters, online programs should draw faculty from the full-time and executive MBA ranks, says Phil Powell, who chairs the online program at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “It’s a very quick and dirty way to differentiate whether the online program is seen as a strategic asset for the school or whether it’s just a quick way to make a buck,” Like many high-end programs, Kelley – which has graduated over 2000 online MBAs in the past 15 years – leans heavily on tenured and tenure-track faculty to teach online students.

And it’s a key differentiator, with Powell noting that a high ratio of adjuncts likely reflects a program that doesn’t prize online students. Teaching quality can also be wildly inconsistent with adjuncts, who have likely received little training in teaching to an online audience. What’s more, experienced faculty can draw on lessons and examples from previous sections of the course.

At first glance, part-time practitioners may seem like an ideal fit for online students, who are often professionals looking to advance their careers or perform their jobs better. Active in their field, practitioners can often deliver “real world” best practices that better connects theory with application. However, that may be a short-sighted view, says Stacey Whitecotton, senior associate dean of graduate programs at Arizona State’s W.P. Carey School of Business.

“Part-time faculty, by definition, really only have to teach for the university. So they might be great teachers, but they don’t have the research expectations,” she says. “Students are looking for knowledge they can apply at work. They want faculty who understand what is happening in the business world, but they also have to have faculty who are on the cutting edge of the field and generating new knowledge. It’s important to expose students to both.”

Regardless, Whitecotton also advises potential students to evaluate faculty on their responsiveness and accessibility “during orientation, office hours and on discussion boards.” Even more, they should examine the credentials of faculty – full-time and adjunct – as they could also open their networks up to students.

Most important, they should make sure they are taking the same class – rigor and all – as their full-time cohorts. They want “MBA Might,” not “MBA Lite.”


Source: U.S. News & World Report