Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Online MBA Facts and Fictions

The real scoop on earning your MBA online.

If you're weighing the pros and cons of earning your master's in business administration (MBA) online, you're not alone. After all, with more choices come more questions.

Aspen University Online offered the very first accredited, online MBA degree in 1987. More than 20 years later, there is a much longer list of schools offering MBAs online.

Let's play true-false to examine some differences between online and offline MBA programs.

TRUE OR FALSE: An online business education can't compare to face-to-face learning.

FALSE - In fact, a 93-page Department of Education report outlined in The New York Times found that online students outperformed classroom-based students in a modest but statistically meaningful way using comparative research gathered from 1996 to 2008.

"The study's major significance lies in demonstrating that online learning today is not just better than nothing - it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction," said Barbara Means, the study's lead author and an educational psychologist at SRI International.

Add in the fact that many online learning tools - like streaming video, email, instant messaging, and teleconferencing - develop key communication skills that every modern business executive needs, and it becomes apparent that online programs can offer some competitive advantages that a typical classroom-based education can't.

TRUE OR FALSE: MBA degrees earned online are a scam perpetuated by unaccredited diploma mills.

FALSE - Thereare literally hundreds of accredited schools and universities offering online MBA degree programs. Take, for example, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), a highly-regarded accrediting agency which has given its stamp of approval to many online MBA programs.

Yet AACSB accreditation is not the lone indicator of quality when considering an online MBA program. "If it's not accredited by the AACSB," writes Jeffrey Gangemi in Business Week, "then you should look for regional accreditation. This means that the organization examining the program is approved by the U.S. government."

TRUE OR FALSE: There are benefits to a campus-based MBA program that can't be matched online.

TRUE - No matter its advantages, online learning simply cannot replicate face-to-face interaction with your instructor or in-person networking in a classroom with your peers.

Yet career networking does exist in online MBA programs, albeit with a different format.

"There's a really strong, off-the-radar network building up on its own," says Michael Goess, chairman of the Division of Business for Graduate Programs at Regis University, which offers one of the largest online MBA programs in the country.

Additionally, online MBA programs offer career counseling services to their students, not to mention a much more affordable price and the flexibility to keep your day job while earning your MBA, no matter your zip code.

TRUE OR FALSE: Online MBA degrees are a fad that will go the way of the pet rock.

FALSE - Ever since Aspen University Online offered that first accredited, online MBA degree in 1987, online programs have become commonplace and changed the concept of business school forever.

Businesses have changed too, now viewing online MBAs as acceptable credentials, both during the interview process and when considering employees for promotion.

In other words, potential employers are asking the exact same kinds of questions that you're asking. Is the online MBA program properly accredited? And how reputable is the institution?

The fact is, while earning a degree online may feel like a brand-new phenomenon, it's not. Although it may surprise some, the concept of distance learning actually pre-dates most brick-and-mortar educational institutions.

Indeed, the University of London was the first to offer distance learning degrees as early as 1858. Capitalizing on 19th-century postal innovations, the university began awarding degrees via mail correspondence to deserving students, regardless of location, race, religion, and gender.

Online MBA programs are a natural extension of that forward-thinking philosophy. It goes to show that, regardless of the year, decade or even century, new technology means new possibilities.

Take a look at these online business school programs and see if there is an ideal match for you.

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