5 Reasons Professionals Love Online MBAs

There’s nothing “normal” about going back to school. Ask any adult learner. They’ll tell you about the late nights and lost weekends, racing around to find sitters and prepare meals. Make no mistake: the workload isn’t lightened, either. Working students are pulled in every direction, often with a moment’s notice. All the while, they ask themselves…

How do I fit it all in? How do I maintain a normal life?

Not with a standard classroom, that’s for sure.

Rice University’s Heather Price

Years ago, business schools lured go-getters with weekend executive programs. Others chose the part-time route, devoting their evenings to pursuing greater influence and higher pay. It didn’t matter. They still missed out on family time. That was just the price you paid, most assumed. That is, until online MBA programs grew increasingly sophisticated. Forget ‘MBA Lite.’ The rigor was equal to their full-time counterparts. And the format was tailored to the wild fluctuations of adults with real responsibilities. Better still, online MBAs worked with talented peers and committed faculty – the kind who make business school such a differentiator for their full-time peers.


“It was nothing like the online learning experiences I had in undergrad,” notes Heather Price, who earned her online MBA from Rice University this spring. “It felt like the future of education. The flexibility allowed me to continue thriving, personally and professionally, without wasting precious time commuting in Houston traffic. I could watch lectures on my Peloton, revisit recorded live sessions, or listen to either multiple times while commuting to and from work. I had countless team meetings that felt as intimate as in-person meetings. It felt more immersive than I ever imagined was possible with online learning.”

In a word, online MBAs enjoyed the flexibility where coursework fit into their lives. “The ability to do digital coursework after work or on the weekends allowed me to enjoy a nearly-normal life (punctuated with exam periods and “don’t bother me I have a paper due” weekends),” writes Celina Rosita Tousignant, who earned her online MBA from Syracuse University in 2020. “I was able to take vacations—logging in from Tokyo, London, Miami, and Montevideo—and have the flexibility to balance coursework with my career as either one demanded greater attention. Additionally, I would be remiss to not mention how great it was to be able to join classes from the comfort of my own home. Adding an MBA program to a full-time career is hard enough, so the simple pleasure of being a student on my sofa was an added bonus.”

This month, Poets&Quants published its 3rd annual Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Class of 2020 story, which honored 52 talented MBAs from the Class of 2020. As part of their nominations, these students were asked the following: What was your favorite part of being in an online MBA program? From diverse experiences to immediate ROI, here are 5 reasons why this year’s Best & Brightest loved business school.

University of Illinois’ Rebecca Radney

1) Flexibility: “I thoroughly enjoyed the flexibility that an online MBA provides. Whether I was on the road for work or had late or early meetings, the program allowed me to complete the work as it best fit with my schedule. The staff and professors were accommodating to varying work schedules and encouraged the class to apply their current work scenarios throughout the program. Many of the concepts were immediately applicable and thus furthered the learning experience.”
Hillary Butler, Auburn University (Harbert)

“It was the ability to do it anywhere in the world. For the most part, people have said your life gets put on hold when you start your MBA. Not with the iMBA program. Since its 100% online, as a student, you have the ability to still maintain your everyday routine and pursue an MBA. Whether you travel for work or get relocated, it doesn’t matter. It truly allows for flexibility.”
Rebecca Radney, University of Illinois (Gies)

“Without a doubt, I would say the flexibility of an online format is the best thing. I have called in from or done schoolwork in over thirty cities both domestically and abroad. While working and attending school, I have been able to schedule around church events, kids’ activities and important life events. I can’t imagine being able to do this program and be on a strict schedule of having to be on campus every other weekend.”
Mike Narvaez, Rice University (Jones)

2) Diversity: “My favourite part was connecting to an amazing cohort and learning about topics that I have had no or limited exposure. The online programme and the international connections of Imperial College gives you a more diverse and global cohort, professors, and opportunities. The topics and discussions dwelling deep into our professors’ and cohort’s experience enabled me to better understand the world of economics and industries outside my academic research bubble.

Warwick Business School’s Freddy-Bob Jones

It gave me, for example, a great introduction into Japanese operational practices that are very relevant to my field. It developed my ability to recognise the driving forces and influencers behind key decisions in the world as well as analyse the external and internal context of my own industry. Seeing the bigger picture in technology or organisational behaviour made me more impactful and effective in my work.”
Eva Belonohy-Borba, Imperial College

“The best part of the distance learning MBA is the sheer diversity of my MBA cohort. I’ve been privileged to study alongside an excellent group of colleagues from all over the world (187 students from 55 countries). They have brought a rich diversity of experience from all walks of life and professional backgrounds that has in turn positively enhanced my experience on the programme.”
Freddy Bob-Jones, Warwick Business School

The tremendous depth and breadth of background thought, and professions helped me see the world and myself through a clearer, broader lens. Working through cases alongside engineers, fighter pilots, non-profit leaders, and finance managers was incredible. My classmates lived in Hong Kong, California, Germany, and Japan, just to name a few. We referenced our industries, shared stories of success and failure, lent a hand on homework, and kept each other buoyed through the highs and lows. The support for one another also extended beyond the classroom, particularly during the global pandemic.”
Martha Buckley, University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

3) Support: “I loved seeing people help each other unconditionally. The Gies iMBA is like a big family. When I started to look for opportunities, many students gave me valuable advice and insights. We connected through Zoom meetings, work chat, and phone calls. I never met most of them in-person, but never felt we were too far away.”
JaeB Kim, University of Illinois (Gies)

University of Maryland’s Leland Naslow

4) Immediate Returns: “It was the ability to immediately apply course learnings to real-world business challenges that I was facing in my current role. I was introduced to new technologies, ideas, and ways of thinking that helped to identify solutions and make an immediate impact on my organization.”
Jaime Xinos, University of Illinois (Gies)

“I love being able to take what I learn in class and put it into action the next day in my career. Being an online MBA student allows for an individual to juggle a career and an education (and more) which provides ample opportunity to put the education to immediate use. I find that I have a higher retention rate with the information I learn because I can see it applied or being applied throughout my organization.”
Joshua Jones, Auburn University (Harbert)

5) Daily Preparation for the Future of Work: “It is perhaps more evident now, during the current global crisis, than ever before where business, learning, and networking of the future will be conducted – online. Every online class, assignment, group meeting, and simulation doubled as a unique opportunity to hone the way I work in this exciting environment.” 
Leland Nislow, University of Maryland (Smith)


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