Of all the panels, this one might have had the most diversity in terms of how established the online MBA programs are. Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management began distance learning in 1977 and moved online in the 2000s. But the schools relaunched its online MBA program in 2015 with 2U, the educational platform behind many online degree programs.
And then there’s Northeastern University, which has offered an online MBA program for 14 years and was the first AASCB-accredited online MBA program offered in the U.S. Dayton and American are the newer programs, having launched more recently, and also utilize the 2U platform and service to run their programs.
In this robust and detailed panel, each school chats about the structure of their programs, current class profiles, fit in candidates they’re looking for, advice on when is a good time to start an online MBA program, the flexibility of their programs, and how they connect students with each other, alumni, and career services.
An edited transcript is below.
John A. Byrne: Hi there. This is John Byrne with Poets&Quants. You’re about to watch a video livestream event that we held in August of 2020 with key players in the online MBA space. But before it starts, I just wanted to let you know that we have an incredible resource of information and analysis on online MBA programs, from rankings to profiles of individual schools, to how much they cost, to whether they require GMATs or GREs, and a wealth of other information to help you make a really good and smart decision about which program to pursue. If you want to avail yourself of all those resources, go to poetsandquants.com. In the nav bar, you’ll see a little tab for Online MBAs, go there, or you can go direct to online-MBA-hub backspace at poetsandquant.com. We’re looking forward to seeing you. Enjoy the video.
Nathan Allen: Hello, my name is Nathan Allen and I am a staff writer at Poets&Quants. Welcome to Day Two of the Online MBA Admissions Event. This is our second panel for the day, and I’m super excited about it. We’ve got four great schools, so let’s just dive in. Let me do some introductions, and then we’ll get going. From Syracuse University, we have the Assistant Dean for Master’s Programs, Amy McHale, from Northeastern, we have the Enrollment Advisor, Brandon Bennings, from the University of Dayton, we have the Director of the MBA program, Scott MacDonald, and from American University, we have their Assistant Director of Admissions of Online Programs, Keshia Ridley. Welcome, everyone. It’s good to see you. Thanks for being here. Okay, so let’s just start with the basics then. When did your program go online? What are kinda some of the intricacies of it in terms of structure and setup? Amy, we’ll start with you.
Amy McHale: Great, thanks, Nathan. So our program actually started as a distance program in 1977 and then moved online in the 2000s, and we relaunched with our educational technology partner in January of 2015. We have a format that is weekly asynchronous materials that the students watch in advance of coming to a 90-minute live session.
Allen: Okay, great. Brandon, how about you, how is Northeastern’s setup?
Brandon Bennings: Yeah, so we’ve been offering the program for the last 14 years. We were actually one of the first schools in the United States to offer an online AACSB-accredited MBA. Basically, the program is 100% online. We do have two optional residency programs that we do offer, both in the first and second years of the program, and it is asynchronous. So you never have to be online at any set time. We say about 15 to 20 hours a week to be successful in the program, and the way that we structured as well as each course is gonna run anywhere from three to five weeks in length, and then you’re generally gonna be looking at about a one-week break after each course. So you can complete the entire program in as little as two years, but you do have up to five years if you ever need to space it out, the flexibility’s there.
Allen: Got it. Scott, how about you all, how long is the program, when did you all come online, all that stuff?
Scott MacDonald: Sure. Thanks. We started in October of 2017 with our program, and similar to American and Syracuse, we have the asynchronous and synchronous components. Our terms run about 11 weeks for the full term and our courses meet each week in a live session so you do the asynchronous work. The synchronous is two-hour sessions weekly meetings, so it’s a little different because of the way our terms are constructed.
Allen: Got it. Okay. And Keshia, how about at American?
Keshia Ridley: Yeah, so to kinda piggyback with Scott and Amy, we do have the asynchronous and synchronous component. Our sessions are actually 10 weeks per term, and then we also have an emerging requirement for our students where students are typically required to do an in-person experience for usually three days. Obviously right now, during COVID times, that has been also moved to online, but that is in addition to the asynchronous and synchronous component.
Allen: Great. Okay. Thank you all for that intro to your programs. I just want to remind the participants that we will take some Q&As if you all want to type those into the chatbox before we move on. And so Brandon, I’m gonna direct this next question to you first. A lot of our readers really want to know about the class makeup, and not just for themselves, so they can kinda compare to how they would fit into the program, but also seeing who their potential classmates might be. So what does the class profile look like these days at Northeastern in the online MBA program?
Bennings: Mm-hmm, that’s a great question. So in terms of the class sizes themselves, we do keep cohorts relatively small. But 12 to 15 students per cohort generally just fosters a stronger peer network, challenges them, there’s lots of discussion boards, forum posts, and things like that. In terms of the gender split, just based off of the recent 2020 graduate survey that we recently did, about 58% male, 42% female, the average age of the students, generally about 34-years-old. And we do have an admissions requirement of five years of full-time work experience. However, most of the students in the program do have 10 years of full-time work experience. So it definitely makes for good networking opportunities in the program, and each student’s bringing a little bit to the cohort as well.
Allen: Right. Thanks. And then in terms of industries and backgrounds, can you give any more specifics on where the students are coming from, generally?
Bennings: Yeah, for sure. We have students coming from all different sectors. We do offer eight in-demand concentrations with the program as well. So lots of students who are either coming in, looking for that career growth or a complete career pivot and transition, we have students who graduate, they go into JP Morgan Chase, Amazon, Nintendo, L’Oreal, some of those companies as well.
Allen: Great. Thank you. Scott, how about you all at Dayton, what is the class looking like these days?
MacDonald: So as far as the actual classroom, we usually have about 15 to 18 students in the live sessions, so relatively small live sessions. As far as the demographic makeup of our students, we skew more male. We’re probably at about 55% male to 45% female. As far as ethnic backgrounds, I think we’re about 20% individuals of color. And when we talk about age and work years of experience, average age around 32, and about eight years work experience. But we’ve got individuals that have just come into the workforce and we’ve got individuals that are presidents of companies. So we’ve got a real nice range of people that creates some great discussion in class.
Allen: Great. Keshia, how about at American? What does your class profile look like these days?
Ridley: Sure, at American, we do have a pretty diverse student body population. Currently, with the online MBA, we’re close to almost 400 enrolled students. With that though, we do maintain a smaller class size for the synchronous component, so you’re usually capping that at about 15 students. As far as the actual makeup of our students, we do have a fairly decent or close to a fairly decent split as far as gender. We’re at about actually 48% women within the program, as well as with our underrepresented minorities, we also are at about 48%, so you see a little more diversity within that component. As far as the background of our students, they come from all over. We accept students that are straight out of undergrad, as well as students we’ve seen with 20 to 30-plus years of work experience. And so it really brings a very diverse (class) and it cultivates a great conversation within that live session component.
Allen: Yeah, and now, are a lot of your students coming from the D.C. area, or are they coming from other parts around the country, and world?
Ridley: So it is a mix, but primarily they are within the DMV. We have about 60% of our students from the DMV area, but we do, like I said, have a mix of students that do come from all over. We have a fairly small international student population, so that’s gonna be probably the smallest, but DMV is very heavy, as far as their population, and then within the domestic states.
Allen: Great, thank you. And Amy at Syracuse, I think Syracuse is one of the bigger programs that we work with. Is that true? How many students are enrolling and what do they look like?
McHale: We probably… Yes, Nathan, we probably have about 1,000 active students enrolled. Like many of the colleagues here, we also keep class sizes on average between 18 to 20 in a synchronous session, but we just add more and more sections as we need to meet demand. Our student body tends to skew a little older than these. Our average age is 38 years old with 10 to 12 years of work experience, typically mid-level coming from all sectors, including a professional running back for the NFL, and we probably do skew a little bit more male. Another thing of note is that we are about 28% military-connected. Syracuse has had a long history of welcoming students using the GI Bill going back to the 40s and 50s, so we’ve continued that tradition. We have a huge support network for them and even an academic advisor that really understands how to maximize their benefits with their academic plan.