Are virtual MBA programs as good as in-person?

“The past two and a half years have proven that high-quality academic programs can successfully expand beyond the traditional in-person classroom experience,” Wharton Dean Erika James said in a statement. “By combining world-class virtual instruction with meaningful residential learning opportunities, we can extend the reach of a Wharton MBA education to even more leaders who are poised to grow economies and transform industries across the world.”

While Wharton is the first of the elite M7 business schools to launch an online executive MBA, there are other schools, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler, the Kelley School of Business from Indiana University and the University of Florida’s Hough. Graduate School of Business, which offers virtual MBA programs. Many others have hybrid programs.

It’s no surprise, however, that a top five program offers a primarily online curriculum, as a 2021 survey of more than 80 business school deans found that 89% predicted this would happen. in the next three to four years.

“The Wharton School began testing online courses with Wharton Direct around the year 2000,” says Peter Winicov, senior director of media relations and reputation management at Wharton. After launching Wharton Online in 2012, Wharton has supported more than 3 million learners worldwide in more than 50 courses, he says.

What should students consider before they hit the couch and start a program virtually?

While virtual learning tends to be more scalable and less expensive for MBA programs (although the latter is not the case for Wharton), virtual classrooms have their drawbacks: according to a study by the MBA Roundtable of January 2021, 88% reported more difficulty building community and 86% said it was more difficult to keep students engaged during virtual MBA learning.

Greg Hanifee, associate dean of degree operations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, says in-person education continues to be a central pillar of Kellogg’s programming, but their full-time MBA program continues. to use virtual programming, particularly when highlighting international guest speakers and for asynchronous resources, specific courses, and extended faculty engagement.

“For Kellogg, prioritizing in-person education while integrating virtual components is most essential for the best educational experience,” says Hanifee.

There are also virtual benefits.

An online MBA program typically includes a lot of group work, reflecting a student’s ability to manage remote collaboration with people they’ve never met in person across different time zones using technology. which is an increasingly important skill, says Deb Adair, executive director of Quality Matters, a quality assurance organization focused on online courses.

If you select an online MBA program, make sure it’s from an institution accredited by AACSB, the highest level of accreditation a business school can achieve, says Angela Prazza Winters, assistant dean student services at UIC Business.

The University of Illinois at Chicago, an AACSB-accredited institution, launched its online MBA in fall 2021 and surpassed the traditional MBA in terms of new students starting in fall 2022.

Prazza Winters says one of the great benefits of the online program is that it allows professionals to continue their studies without interrupting their careers.

“Many of our online students are already working and looking forward to opportunities for professional development and promotion within their current company,” she says. “Employers are thrilled to retain their valuable employees while they graduate.”

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