One of the major reasons students opt for online MBA options is flexibility. If you want to keep your job, you can. If you are a road warrior, you can log into live class sessions from an airplane or a hotel room. In most cases, you can take a lighter academic load when work and family commitments are heavy and load up on the work when you have more time to devote to your studies.
Flexibility takes on new meaning in the online MBA program at North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management. You can do it fast or do it slow, earning the degree in as little as 21 months or up to six years. You can start the program in either January or August. And you can do the program purely online, logging into classes when and where you like, or you can show up for the face-to-face courses in Raleigh or Research Triangle Park. Or better yet, perhaps, you can mix and match these options on your own.
In Poets&Quants’ debut ranking of online MBA programs, N.C. State placed 19th — an impressive showing for a program that was only launched in 2011 — but with more schools participating, this year the school dropped to 24th. Since launching, some 187 students have graduated with their online MBAs. In the 2016-217 academic year, the school received some 243 applications for its online offering. N.C. State accepted 141 of those applicants and ultimately enrolled 42 students in the Poole online program. In-state students get a significant tuition break on the program with a total cost of $44,955, more than $30,000 less than the $74,465 the school charges out-of-state students.
The Poole online MBA core curriculum takes an integrated approach to learning, emphasizing technology, business processes, and practical applications. Primarily asynchronous (the school estimates that 95% of the programming is online and not in-person), the online courses are taught through podcasts, video, and online presentations. Through a mix of coursework, virtual simulations and team-based projects, students connect with each other and faculty. The program’s profs maintain office hours through a virtual collaborative space, phone, email, and online chat.
Two years ago, in March of 2016, the school revamped its online MBA offering, adding more experiential learning, leadership development, and customization of the what the school calls an MBA Think and Do experience. The faculty shuffled the deck on its core curriculum, organizing the basics into three blocks — finance and markets, analyzing the value chain, and managing the organization — and quickened the pace of the core so students would have more time with electives. In fact, online MBA students now complete a depth requirement, consisting of six credit hours dedicated to a specific area of study, from innovation management to biosciences management.
Poole also tossed in a required virtual practicum course, which typically includes a consulting project for a company, and an advanced quant class as well as a one-credit-hour course on critical thinking in response to feedback from corporate recruiters. The school also added another three-day residency over a Thursday-Saturday long weekend in Raleigh, N.C., to provide for more leadership development workshops and networking opportunities. This was in addition to an existing three-day residency held in the first semester focused on team building and career training. Short-term study trips abroad are also available, though not required.
Unlike some other online options, Poole takes career development seriously. The school provides executive coaches for online students, company-hosted office hours, corporate presentations, company tours, and treks.
All in all, it’s a solid program and an especially good buy for in-state students.