Indiana Kelley’s Online MBA Gets A Major Revamp

Students in Indiana University’s Kelley Direct online MBA program

Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business [Connect Me] is announcing a major revamp of its online MBA program that will make it even more similar to the school’s full-time, residential flagship program.

While most online MBA offerings provide scant opportunity to enroll in many elective courses, Kelley is doubling the number of elective classes that its online students will be able to take. The school is redesigning the business basics into an integrated core curriculum similar to the way Kelley teaches its full-time MBA students.

For the first time, online students will also have the option of majoring in a discipline upon completing 12 credit hours in a subject. There are seven majors, ranging from finance and marketing to entrepreneurship and innovation and business analytics.


“This is a landmark moment in the future of online education,” exclaims Ramesh Venkataraman, chair of the Kelley Direct MBA & MS programs. “We were the first to come out and I think we did a great job of leading the way and hopefully, these changes will allow us to put new innovation out there. This will be a new era in online, with a unique combination of an integrated core and a large number of electives. We have left everything that we believe are our strengths, including the program’s Kelley Connect weeks on its campus in Bloomington, live weekly classes, AGILE global immersions, and a heavy focus on career development.”

The changes will be explored in a forthcoming live stream event with Poets&Quants on March 27 (register for the event here). Three consecutive panel discussions that day, featuring faculty, students and administrators, will focus on the online MBA option, the experience of taking a degree over the Internet, and the career development opportunities that are possible with an online MBA.

Ramesh Venkataraman, chair of Kelley Direct, the online MBA program at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business

Under the newly revamped program that will launch this fall, students will complete 27 credit hours of required courses and 27 credit hours of electives. It is a major change from the current format under which 39 credits are mandatory and just 12 are elective credits. Overall, online students will be required to complete 54 credit hours of coursework, up from 51 now. The increase will mean a slight increase in the cost of the program which is currently priced at $1,330 per credit hour in tuition and fees, from a total of $67,830 to $71,820.

What’s more, Kelley is offering a wide range of elective options, at least ten different courses in each of seven disciplines. “The marketplace is demanding depth in business programs,” adds Venkataraman. “Our solution to that is to add the electives into the MBA program. and I’m hoping that will bring even more people into the program without having to quit their jobs.”

He also believes the depth of those course offerings will be a differentiator for Kelley. “Even if they (other business schools) have the breadth of departments, many schools don’t have the breadth of commitment for this. We are taking the position that the online and full-time experience should be similar.”

To make room for that kind of flexibility, the school had to squeeze out what it considered unnecessary material from the core courses and teach some of it via video instead of in the weekly live class sessions. “We reduced every core course to two credit hours from three,” explains Venkataraman, also an associate dean and professor at Kelley. “If we could deliver it in two credit hours in the full-time, we felt we should be able to do it in online as well.”


The content in each core course will be reduced by roughly a third, delivered in eight-week online courses, instead of 12 weeks. “We’re better leveraging technology to get the content out, and we’re narrowing content down to the most important dimensions,” he adds. “By opening up the electives, anything that gets left out people can pick up the depth in that area as they go along.”

One three-credit elective course is required and chosen from three different options: an experiential learning opportunity where students may do a consulting assignment with an organization, a career development option, or a global perspectives class that includes a trip abroad. Kelley is also increasing the number of AGILE (Accelerating Global Immersion Leadership Education) immersions to seven during each year vs. one a quarter now.

Kelley also will add an as yet undefined capstone experience for online students after they complete the first year. “We will look at our full-time program as a starting point but will also look at similar models at other schools and come up with a good model that allows us to get the best experience for our students,” says Venkataraman.

Under the new format, the core will largely be taught in three blocks: Understanding markets and institutions; Delivering value through functional excellence, and creating and sustaining competitive advantage (see diagram of the new curriculum below). Core one would consist of three courses: business law and ethics, economics, and organizational behavior. Core two will integrate teachings from another trio of courses: operations management, marketing management, and financial management. And then core three will include digital tech and innovation, developing strategic capabilities and an integrative new live case experience in the final four weeks.

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