EVERY STUDENT IS ASSIGNED A CAREER COACH
The learning culminates in an unusual focus on each student’s career. Every Kelley Direct student is assigned a career coach and has full access to the school’s formidable Graduate Career Center. Few full-time MBA programs invest as many resources into career management than Kelley. The upshot: More than 64% of Kelley Direct students are promoted while in the online MBA program or within six months of graduation. Poets&Quants‘ most recent survey of the programs’s alumni found that graduates report an average boost of 33% in their pay, a hefty $30,873 increase over pre-MBA compensation of $92,688 to $123,561.
Not surprisingly, given the extent of the school’s investments and commitment to innovation, Kelley Direct recently was named the world’s best online MBA program by Poets&Quants. Kelley also is tied for first in U.S. News‘ last ranking of the best online MBA options in the U.S. with MBA@UNC, the online MBA program at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. One of the biggest differences between those two programs, however, is price. Kelley Direct sports a $74,520 price tag, more than $50,000 less than MBA@UNC which now sets back students $125,589. No wonder, applications to the Kelley online MBA have soared by 64% over the last year.
The dramatic changes in Kelley Direct reflect increasing expectations in online learning, rising competition, and changing demands from the corporate world. “The marketplace is demanding depth in business programs,” explains Ramesh, who led the revamp as chair of Kelley Direct MBA & MS programs. “There have been a lot of tweaks on the curriculum but we hadn’t worked on a substantial revision for awhile. So it was time. As we looked at more competition coming into the landscape, we asked ourselves if we could actually do something to distance ourselves from the competition. That to me was the biggest motivation.”
ANTICIPATING A DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFT IN ONLINE MBA STUDENTS
To increase the program’s depth while retaining its flexibility for students to earn an MBA in as short as two years or as long as four required substantial changes to the curriculum. Every existing core course underwent a top-to-bottom revision, requiring that faculty focus on what is essential learning and what can be trimmed. It also meant that more content could be transmitted by leveraging technology. The result: Every core course is now two credit hours delivered over eight weeks instead of three over 12 weeks.
“By constricting that we didn’t have to eliminate any of the required content,” adds Venkataraman. “By opening up the electives, anything that gets left out of the core, people can pick up the depth in that area as they go along.”
Kelley’s program changes also anticipate a shift in the classic demographics of an online MBA. Traditionally, the school’s online program has drawn students with seven to nine years of professional work experience. Venkataraman, however, believes that more and more younger professionals will want to get their MBA degrees online, given the larger investment students must make to attend an in-residence, two-year program. “I believe what might start happening is that the time to enter an online program will start compressing,” he says. “More younger people will do it. We could become the substitute for people who would otherwise have picked a full-time program. 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.”
A LIVE DYNAMIC DISCUSSION, BREAKOUT GROUPS, VIDEO LESSONS & TEMPLATES TO APPLY THE LEARNING AT WORK
At the end of the day, however, it’s all about the faculty’s commitment to online teaching. “A lot of work goes into setting up the class in advance, whether it’s trying to create discussion topics in breakout rooms or whether it’s trying to make it as pedagogically diverse as possible to make sure that students get that close connection through the exploration of the topic at hand,” says Will Geoghegan, an award-winning professor at Kelley who teaches strategic management online and is the new chair of Kelley Direct. “Technology has really evolved over the last five or 10 years, and the platform we currently use allows us to use things like polls and breakout rooms to really allow the students to get to know each other, work together and share their insights.”
Back in Walters’ class, the professor concludes his discussion on Levis with the primary reasons why successful companies often hit a wall and stall: 1) An absence of deep intelligence about value trends and inflection points in customer markets, and 2) An incomplete understanding of the competition and how they do business.
“This stalling and declining growth phenomenon is a big deal for firms,” says Walters, citing a study that found that 87% of all firms experience stalling growth. “In the ten years after the stall, firms lost 74% of their market cap relative to the S&P 500, and most CEOs lost their jobs after a stall. A majority of the firms failed to return to their previous top-line growth rates.”
“What would you want to know about your major competitors?” He asks the class.
Walters offers the class templates for analyzing competition, along with a competitor knowledge tool with 16 diagnostics. Next week’s assignment is to use the tool to help every student better understand the competition that their employers currently face. He then places the students into groups of four or five into breakout rooms to debate a Wall Street Journal article on Amazon with the headline “Amazon Scooped Up Data From Its Own Sellers To Launch Competing Products.”
Their break room assignment: “Was Amazon wrong in its use of supply data to help them compete more effectively? What actions would you take to maintain and grow your business?”
AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE REVOLUTION IN DIGITAL EDUCATION
When they return to the main virtual classroom, Walters cold calls another student.
“Eric, you start the ball rolling. What did your team conclude?”
It’s just another routine class but a glimpse into a best-of-class online experience. Some 22 years ago in 1999, Kelley was the first top-ranked business school to enter the online market. With its latest overhaul, the school has insured that it is at the forefront of the revolution in digital education.