‘WE ASKED OURSELVES IF WE COULD DO SOMETHING TO DISTANCE OURSELVES FROM THE COMPETITION’
The changes occur as the online MBA marketplace becomes ever more competitive with new players every year. This year, for example, the University of Michigan’s Ross School will enroll its first online MBA class. Kelley is a pioneer in the space, having launched its online MBA option in 1999, well before many of the more than 300 online MBA options that exist today in the U.S. alone. The school has already graduated 4,466 online MBAs since the program’s start.
Kelley Direct was ranked third best in Poets&Quants‘ most recent ranking of the top online MBAs in the U.S. Kelley and the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flager Business School recently shared top honors on U.S. News’ ranking of the best online MBA programs.
“There have been a lot of tweaks on the curriculum but we hadn’t worked on a substantial revision for a while,” explains Venkataraman. “But as we looked at more competition coming into the landscape, we asked ourselves if we could actually do something that allows us to distance ourselves from the competition. That to me was the biggest motivation for the change.”
TRYING TO MAKE THE ONLINE MBA A REAL OPTION FOR UNDERGRADUATE BUSINESS MAJORS
The committee formed to come up with the curriculum overhaul, moreover, included professors who teach in the full-time MBA program to gain their perspectives. “That helped shape some of the revisions,” adds Venkataraman.
Kelley believes the changes will also make its online MBA more attractive to applicants who have undergraduate business degrees. “Students are coming out of undergrad with so much debt they don’t want to quit their jobs so they are looking for other options to get their MBAs,” the chair of the online MBA program says. “Now the undergrads in business who are in the program are very small. In talking to the few business undergrads in the online program, they raised questions about the overlap. But we still have to stay true to an MBA program where part of the learning is from others with different experiences and backgrounds.”
By providing some flexibility to waive an accounting and a quantitative course, Kelley hopes to make its online option more attractive to this part of the audience. Those waivers, if taken, would allow an undergraduate business student to take 33 credit hours of electives.
SEES A SHIFT TOWARD YOUNGER STUDENTS IN ONLINE MBA PROGRAMS
The new curriculum also will better leverage Kelley’s alumni network for experiential projects. “We are looking at taking advantage of our strong alumni base in doing more experiential projects,” says Venkataraman. “We think we can actually have experiences where we can expose people to industries in a deeper way. So it doesn’ have to be project based. We acknowledge that complementing the online experience with the right components that are delivered face to face is going to be an important dimension of the success of online programs.
“I believe there will be a shift in the demographic profile of online students over time. Most of the students in our online program have average years of experience from seven to nine years. People are much farther along in their careers. I believe what might start happening is that will begin to compress. Younger people will do it. We could become the substitute for people who would otherwise have picked a full-time program.”
The application deadline for Kelley Direct’s fall entry is June 15th for domestic applicants and June 1st for international candidates.