Global Recruiters Are Warming To OMBA Grads. U.S. Employers Are Getting Colder. Why?


Will Geoghegan, Chair of Kelley Direct

Will Geoghegan, clinical associate professor at Indiana University Kelley School of Business and Chair of the Kelley Direct Online MBA program, one of the oldest and most highly ranked online MBA programs in the world, says GMAC’s findings don’t so much indicate the quality of OMBAs or other online degree programs as “call into question whether corporate recruiters are the appropriate audience to interview for valid data concerning online MBA students.” Most corporate recruiters, Geoghegan tells P&Q by email, “work primarily with young professionals who have little or no work experience and require company placements to establish careers in business.”

He points out that GMAC’s survey shows that “recruiters who are only slightly confident or have no confidence in business schools’ ability to produce successful graduates most often indicate that this is because of their limited functional work experience (49%).” He says that these full-time MBA program graduates with “limited functional work experience” are very different than online MBA students like those from Kelley Direct, who have an average 10 years’ of professional work experience and are predominantly established in their careers.

“Kelley Direct students are mainly looking to advance in their current company or pivot into a new area,” Geoghegan says. “They are not reliant on corporate recruiting and rather focus on the significant networking and career and executive coaching opportunities while in their online MBA program. We believe opinions held by corporate recruiters may not be valid indicators of broader perceptions of the online MBA, as they tend to have little understanding of this student segment, the curriculum, and the skills that they develop in a rigorous program.”


Geoghegan says the misperception of online MBA and other degree programs by corporate recruiters goes further, pointing to another GMAC data point that “Recruiters who do not view graduates of online and in-person programs equally are more likely to say specific soft, or human, skills are important, including conscientiousness and interpersonal skills.” That may be true of lesser online MBA programs, he says, such as those that are fully asynchronous or focus only on academic content and avoid leadership development, team building, and other interpersonal skillsets.

“However, high-quality online MBA programs, such as the Kelley Direct Online MBA, are consistently highly ranked because we place equal emphasis on both,” Geoghegan says. “Our students receive instruction in all typical academic MBA components as well as personal and professional development to ensure well-rounded current and future leaders.

“Looking at academic performance of students across our Kelley MBA modalities (e.g. online, residential, etc.), we don’t see any difference in the quality or performance of our graduates. However, that may not be the case at other low-quality online MBA programs. Those institutions may be trending towards a low-cost/MOOC model as a revenue generator for the institution and thus would be susceptible to enrolling large classes of lower-quality, early-career students that may be reliant on corporate recruiters for job placements, thus skewing the data collected in surveys such as this one.”


“We agree that some online programs do not deliver as much value as full-time MBA programs,” Geoghegan says. “However, we believe that the best online programs, and specifically Kelley Direct, can replicate the in-person experience (and in some instances improve upon the learning context). We believe strongly that our online MBA program offers as much value, if not more than any residential MBA experience.”

Alleviating any doubt, he lists the Kelley Direct program’s bona fides:

  • The same faculty as Indiana Kelley’s full-time MBA. “We do not use adjuncts for our classes, unlike other programs, and we invest heavily in constantly innovating the online classroom experience.”
  • The same recording facilities, “such as our brand-new four studio Jellison Studios.”
  • Very high admissions standards, “leading to a cohort-driven model of stellar students (we consistently place at the top of rankings when it comes to our class profile and admissions qualifications).”

Geoghegan argues that Kelley Direct graduates “are just as good, if not better, than students from full-time programs, with a proven track record of managing work, family, and school commitments. In fact, we often hear from our students that their senior leaders have specifically suggested that they earn their MBA online rather than take time off to enroll in a full-time program.”

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