We are living in the age of science and technology which has an enormous effect on our lives. Right from social and political aspects of our lives to educational and personal aspects, the advancement in technology is shaping our lives in a way that is very much different from that of our forefathers (on occasions even in “sharp contrast”). Online MBA (more correctly online education) is the product of this scientific advancement.
What is Online MBA?
An online MBA (Master of Business Administration) is a post graduate course offered by the Universities or business schools (colleges) via the internet. When the internet was not fully developed and digital formats for education were not comprehensively introduced, then it was called Distance Learning MBA. The distance learning process involved simply delivery of course materials through posts via traditional mail or maximum at an email level. Although, there are now fully developed and advanced digital formats like live virtual classes, E-libraries and other media formats, some schools and universities still prefer to call it a Distance Learning MBA.
Formats and Materials Used for Online MBA Courses
With regard to the actual course materials, the online MBA course or program does not differ much from the off-line on campus program or course. Several reputed and popular business schools have just converted their traditional MBA courses into online digital media programs. Although, different schools may use different sort of technologies, hardware and software for the purpose of delivering their distance learning course, here are some of the tools which are uniformly used by almost all of them (Not always)
This is the most basic requirement. Days to deliver courses via mail or post are gone. Internet is the most important tool required for conducting any online educational program.
Courses may be delivered via email in PDF format. The Portable Digital Format is a great way of converting books into digital format and then for onward electronic distribution in large quantities. The University administration may also contact the students from time to time via email.
3. Live Virtual Classes
There are some professional services which offer the colleges to conduct virtual classes online through specialised programs. Wiziq.com is just one such example. Students can interact with teachers live in real time. Some business schools arrange their classes over weekends to facilitate the program for the students.
4. Interactive Websites
The popular Business Schools have developed their own interactive websites for online MBA classes. These may be similar to Wiziq but with much more personalized touch and custom options.
There are huge online or electronic libraries providing copies of books in e-formats. These libraries are a great source to access relevant MBA course materials. The materials are either converted to PDF or just made available in an online version. Apart from a massive archive of books, these libraries offer the facility of articles published either in electronic or offline business journals.
MBA forums are online community of the co-students where they can interact and discuss topics such as classes, courses, tutors, jobs, and many general interests. An online forum is a great way to interact with other students and share your experiences. You may also post your questions and other course related issues where tutors actively participate and respond to the questions posted by the students. Online educational forums are increasingly becoming popular due to the fact that these can be used very effectively and efficiently for the purpose of imparting online education.
7. Other Formats
These may include DVDs, CDs, USB drives, Skype, and other social networking.
Appeal and Advantages of MBA Online Programs: The Pros
Why the online (distance learning) courses are becoming so popular? The truth is these are very appealing to people for a number of reasons. The factors determining the decision to go for online study may be different from individual to individual, yet there are a few factors which are common to most people. We have enumerated a number of them here.
1. Ease of Access
It is easier to pursue MBA online rather than go physically to the campus. It is now possible to attend a virtual class from the comfort of your own home or office. Internet is now so common that almost every household have got an access to it (Not all around the world). Not even that, you, no more, need to confine yourself to a laptop or a desktop computer. Many I-Phones and smart phones offer easy and fast access to the internet. The mobile APPS have made it possible to attend your virtual class or access your information from almost anywhere and anytime in the world. The wireless internet, Wi-Fi access, mobile dongles and hotspots internet connections have even further facilitated the program.
2. Easy Research
It is easier to research online rather than in the brick & mortar library. It is time saving to look and search for books in the e-libraries as compared to physical libraries. It is more time consuming shuffling through the book cases in physical libraries whereas it may take only a couple of minutes to perform an online search and find the relevant information.
3. Time, Travel and Cost (TTC)
TTC is, perhaps, the biggest reason that people would like to enrol on an Online MBA Program / course. Family problems, upbringing children, travelling difficulties, relocating, time constraints and costs are some of the major reasons that people may go online to study. Those who are already working and have families are especially affected by TTC. Relocation, travelling, taking time off the work etc all increase the cost of MBA degree. Here is an example of the saving one can make while pursing MBA degree online as compared to an campus program.
MBA is, perhaps, the first degree to be offered online in many countries like USA, UK, Europe, India, Hong Kong, Singapore and many others. Many Universities around the world promote it actively. These institutions realize that time; money, work, family and social commitments are some of the major hindrances for people to go to Universities. There are thousands of schools and colleges offering such courses and programs. Many of them are just “make the money” and “for profit organizations” and best be avoided. Yet, there are many top ranking Business schools in the world offering MBA Programs Online. To name but a few are London Business School, Harvard Business School, Bradford Management Centre, Manchester Business School and the list goes on.
Disadvantages / Downsides of Online MBA Programs: The Cons
Are there any disadvantages? Yes, of course there are! Some real and some exaggerated. As like any other program, the Online MBA course and programs have their own downsides. As we have mentioned the pros above, here are some of the cons.
1. Lack of Motivation and High Dropouts
Online Programs do not provide active physical community and you shall be conducting the whole “affair” on your own. Many times, people find it difficult to continue due to lack of motivation. The percentage of dropouts in such programs is quite high. According to Education Dynamics Survey, it is interesting to note, that the percentage of dropouts is higher in online studies than on campus studies. The main factor behind such high dropout is that, even though online, students are still unable to handle burden because of their family, social and work commitments. This makes them de-motivated and they finally dropout. Other reasons for dropouts include financial, life, health issues, and lack of interaction.
2. Lack of Networking
Some people believe that Online MBA programs lack social networking and establishing social connections with peers, classmates and business organizations. On the other hand, on campus programs provide great opportunity for students to get connected to prospective employers and organizations through social networking, connections and on campus events. This, however, is not true and is debatable. The online forums are a great way of social interaction and networking and may even be more effective than those “so called” on campus events.
3. On Campus Activities
There are also arguments by the Pro Campus mind of people that the online programs do not provide opportunities for the extra activities carried in and around the campus. This may be more a fun to an on campus program rather than a disadvantage to an online one.
4. Less internship Opportunities
This may be true, but online students, in most cases, already work in their own organization. This may not be an absolute requirement or disadvantage for many people.
How to Choose the Best Online MBA Programs?
As we mentioned earlier, there are literally thousands of Universities, colleges and schools promoting MBA via online courses. Are all these programs worth taking? No and period. Here are some guidelines to consider before embarking on the voyage of any any distance learning or online MBA Program.
First and foremost, make sure that the program is accredited or only the recognized Universities or Schools award the degrees. There are too many profit making, commercial and shop type online programs. If you just Google online MBA, you shall get millions of results most of which are cheap craps. If these are not accredited, it is best to avoid.
Check ranking of the schools and their programs. There are many trustworthy online Ranking of various Business Schools. Top 10 or 20 will make a good choice.
3. Course Materials
Always check their syllabus. Make sure they have enough digital materials available for the subjects you want to pursue your study in.
4. Virtual Classes
Are they conducting any virtual classes? What software are they using? They should be using the latest and most advanced software to avoid any interruption and to make sure the smooth functioning of the live classes.
5. The Panel
Check who are on their panel and read their credentials. In case of tops schools, you may not need to do so as they are well-known and reputed. However, if you are not sure, always check the list of their tutors, professors and assistants.
Check their delivery method is up to date and fits the requirement of the program.
Some money making and pure profit organization charge exorbitant fees. Always check and compare with other programs and you shall be often surprised by the difference.
It is great to read testimonials of past students. Many websites will often post testimonials on their official sites. Best way is to talk or communicate with the previous students and note their experience.
We have seen both the pros and cons of going online. It is best to go for the on-campus program whenever possible. However, there are always some restrictions and hurdles. Online MBA Programs by reputed and accredited schools is the best option and a great alternative to traditional programs. There may be some downsides, but overall it saves you money and time. You could get a better qualification and equip yourself with knowledge and expertise which, otherwise, could not have been possible.