Many students pursuing a master of business administration degree have jobs and families that present challenges for them to attend in-person classes. With today’s technology, many colleges and universities offer online MBA classes, and even full curricula to provide flexibility and accommodate students’ time constraints.
Raymond Henry, associate dean for faculty affairs and research in the Monte Ahuja College of Business at Cleveland State University; and Alayna Ross, MBA recruiter and adviser at Ashland University, discussed the benefits of online MBA programs.
“One of the things about the online environment is that it increases flexibility,” Henry said. “I think for a lot of working professionals, especially trying to maintain work-life balance, the idea of setting aside very specific time to go to class while maintaining a business schedule can be difficult.”
With online classes there is more flexibility in terms of when a student does their work, he said.
“Most of what we would call traditional online classes are asynchronous, which means the students work on it over a set period of time, but when they choose to work on the class assignments and readings and things like that is more at their own choosing,” he explained.
They can fit their classes around their schedules and take advantage of technological advances such as video conferencing, which allows them to be remote but still participate in aspects of traditional courses such as live lectures and engagement with faculty, Henry said.
Most faculty who have online classes are very communicative with their students and respond to them promptly, he pointed out.
A bit more self-discipline is needed to succeed in an online course, Henry said.
“The thing about online classes is they do require a bit more attention to making sure things get done,” he said. “There’s a little bit more internal motivation and intrinsic motivation that has to come.”
Henry said the flexibility that online classes offer can be a challenge or a benefit depending on the student’s motivation. It shifts from knowing one has to go to class at a specific time to working their self-directed schooling into their own schedule.
“It does shift that to the student to make sure that they’re in the driver’s seat of their education,” he said.
Having an online platform through which a person can obtain an MBA provides the flexibility many students need to succeed, Ross said.
She pointed out that one of the biggest obstacles that people who are going for an MBA face is having families or full-time work.
“Finding the motivation to sit down and do schoolwork is something that takes a lot of strength and perseverance,” Ross noted. “It’s a lot of self-discipline, but certainly the personal circumstances are a No. 1 obstacle that people run into.”
If personal circumstances present obstacles for someone to go to a physical class, and they have the self-discipline needed to succeed in online classes, an online MBA curriculum may be the best option for them, she said.
“I feel that an MBA provides personal growth,” Ross said. “I think that having that desire to come back to school, push yourself to do the graduate work for the betterment of your professional career yields a lot of personal growth as well.”
There are several benefits of an MBA that helps set people who hold the degree apart, she said. It can be used in many fields, which makes it a versatile degree to have.
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“When I watch my students walk across the stage at graduation, I’m so excited for them because I know that this is going to pay dividends for their professional career,” Ross said. “Also, you’re a different person than you were a year ago or 18 months ago. You did something really difficult and you came out the other side, and that’s something to be really proud of.”
Students often believe they will not have interactions with peers or faculty if they take their courses online, but that is not true, she said
“You can have one-on-one conversations with your professor,” Ross said. “I almost think that it’s a more relational approach to getting an MBA because you aren’t sitting in a large classroom. It’s very personalized to you. It’s pretty much you and the professor, and I think that can meet the needs of students that might need a little bit more help or for students that want to have networking opportunities.”