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Fuqua Launches First Purely Online Degree

The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University in Durham, NC (Photo by Alex Boerner)

SCHOOL WILL PARTNER WITH A CONTENT DEVELOPMENT FIRM

Applicants to the online program will have to submit a GMAT or GRE score or take an executive assessment diagnostic. Fuqua also will interview candidates and require two recommendations. The ideal years of work experience is expected to be between five and seven years, though it could be less base don the quality of that experience.

The school is going to market without a major Internet education partner such as 2U or Coursera. But it does plan to outsource the production of video, among other things. “We won’t have a storefront partner like a 2U,” confirms Boulding. “The thing that they bring is market aggregation. We think the Duke brand in this space is very strong so we don’t need a partner for that and we are not trying to go for massive scale. But we are in the final stages of vetting partners in content development. As you look at really excellent online content, there are different firms that are good on the production side.”

Boulding said the school decided to price the online program at the same tutition rate for its face-to-face residential master’s in quanitative management. “The quality of this online program will be the equal of the face-to-face program with access to the same kind of resources and capabilities. It is a different format but not a different quality.”

MORE ONLINE DEGREE PROGRAMS ARE LIKELY IN THE NEAR FUTURE BUT NOT AN MBA–YET

The new offering is a likely harbinger of Fuqua’s ambitions in the online space. Boulding says that of the 18 courses in the program, ten or 11 could be used across other discipline-focused programs. Seven to eight are unique to the healthcare field. “The modular aspect of this gives us a platform for future expansion to new tracks,” he says. “The business fundamentals courses will be relevant across the tracks, along with the technical analytic courses. Those modules could be used across different domains, and then you have a particular set of modules for industry context. My hope is that this is the first in a series. We don’t want to get out ahead of our skis, but we feel we need to be thinking now about the next steps.”

Boulding believes that business schools are at what he called the mid-point of the digital revolution. “I say mid-way because once more and more schools recognize this possibility (to do more online degrees) you will see innovation that changes what you do online. But we are still in the early days on that,” he says. “Many schools outside the Top 25 have created pure online programs. Some programs have done high touch online vs. lower touch online. I think people have learned a fair amount. The big shift is a recognition on the part of schools that online does not mean lower quality. I think this was a hang-up for people for many years. When you talked to faculty, they believed that face to face just has to be better. But the truth is if you look at how people have been engaging with learning online, they think that it can be every bit a quality product as face to face.”

Asked if he could imagine a day when Fuqua does an online MBA program, Boulding seems doubtful. “I would never say never. The business school industry is facing incredible disruption just as so many other industries are. There has been a 30% reduction in face to face enrollment from 2010 to 2016. That is a seismic shift. I wouldn’t want to give lifetime assurances but for now we are committed to a face-to-face, daytime MBA program, and we aren’t ready to entertain a pure online MBA program. But things change and the future may lead to a different answer to the question.”

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