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AACSB Vice Chair Elect Joseph DiAngelo on Online MBA Accreditation

AACSB Vice Chair Elect Joseph DiAngelo on Online MBA Accreditation

Joseph A. DiAngelo is the dean of the Erivan K. Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. DiAngelo has been on AACSB’s board of directors since 2003, and currently serves as their Vice Chair Elect. In this interview Dean DiAngelo discusses AACSB, online MBA accreditation, and how to decide if an online MBA is the right option for you.

Nicole: My first question is: what is professional accreditation?

Dean DiAngelo: Professional accreditation is generally accreditation in a disciplinary area, as opposed to accreditation of an institution.

Nicole: Why is it important to attend an MBA program that has professional accreditation as opposed to regional accreditation?

Dean DiAngelo: Professional accreditation is a quality assurance mechanism. It’s a way of demonstrating that schools have gone through a rigorous evaluation process of the curriculum, of their faculty, of their students, of their programs. And so it’s just another level of indication of quality for the consumers.

Nicole: And for those who don’t know –- because there is a lot of confusion about accreditation among MBA applicants –- what is AACSB?

Dean DiAngelo: AACSB is the professional accrediting organization. Well, there are several of them, but we like to think we’re the oldest and the premier accrediting organization in the world.

Nicole: How long has AACSB been accrediting online MBA programs?

Dean DiAngelo: That’s a good question. I think it’s 1919. If you have to get an exact date, it’s on the website, but it’s close to 100 years now.

Nicole: How about online programs?

Dean DiAngelo: There’s no different accreditation for online than there is for business programs. So I guess my answer to that question is whenever the first school applied for their traditional accreditation and they had an online program, that’s when it occurred.

But, there’s no difference. People think there is a difference between online and traditional. Accreditation standards are all the same for an online program as they offer a face-to-face program.

Nicole: Do you know what made AACSB start accrediting online programs? Is it just that an AACSB-accredited school created an online program?

Dean DiAngelo: Every program that offers a degree in business, when a school comes into review will be accredited. So, any special delivery modality, any special location, every program that a school offers comes under a review so you can’t say "Well, we’re going to have our face-to-face programs/our classroom programs evaluated but not online." Everything is reviewed.

Nicole: Just to be clear, everything’s reviewed using the same standards, regardless of modality?

Dean DiAngelo: That’s right. Everything is reviewed using the same standards.

Nicole: Many people feel that online MBA programs look bad on the resume or at least not as good as a degree from an on-campus program. How do employers view online MBAs from a professionally accredited program? Is it any different?

Dean DiAngelo: I can’t answer for how a company would answer that question. What I can tell you is that companies will look at the institutions that are offering the programs. And so that’s why one would want to be a professionally accredited school. We don’t differentiate on the diploma or even on the transcript that a student attended online or in the classroom. So, when someone gets an MBA diploma, it’s still the same thing whether you’ve taken it online or in the class.

My advice would be that companies should be concerned about the quality of the institution offering the program; not the delivery.

Nicole: Another concern that any online applicants have is that the programs may not be taught by quality faculty. What kind of faculty requirements do MBA programs need to meet in order to be AACSB-accredited?

Dean DiAngelo: Well, again, it’s the same standard. A specific percentage of faculty members would need to be –- the standards recommend that 75% of the faculty would be what we call participating in the United States that will be full-time, and at least 60% in each disciplinary area would be what we would call full-time employees or participating faculty members.

The standards are the same. Again, that’s another reason why someone should be looking at an AACSB-accredited program because the standards are the same for both.

Nicole: Many websites I’ve looked at state that regional accreditation is good enough or that you only need an AACSB-accredited MBA if you plan to teach. What would you say to people who make those kinds of statements?

Dean DiAngelo: Well, I would say they’re mistaken. I don’t know where that would come from -- that you only need an AACSB degree if you plan to teach. You want to get – I would assume if you were paying tuition and most of the tuitions are fairly significant that you would want to have the best program available to you. That’s another reason to have AACSB-accreditation. It’s an indicator to the public that this program is of high quality. It has gone through scrutiny by external reviewers and there are only 5% of the schools in the world that are AACSB-accredited. And all the premier schools –- which I think we would call premier schools in the United States -– are AACSB-accredited. So, it just gives you another level of confidence that the degree you’re getting is worth the dollars you are paying.

Nicole: Other than accreditation, what should MBA applicants look for when choosing an online MBA program?

Dean DiAngelo: Well, see, there’s a number of ways of teaching online; some are entirely synchronous and some are asynchronous. So, synchronous is there is contact with faculty members either by audio or video. Some are asynchronous where there is no contact. Those are generally a little more difficult for people if they have certain learning styles. I would tell a candidate to look for a program that they will feel comfortable with, and is consistent with their learning styles. Some people can learn on their own, others need more guidance by a faculty member.

Most programs are what we call some kind of hybrid where there is some activity with faculty members or some contact with faculty members, and then contact with the content on the computer.

I would tell them to investigate the programs to see the type of program that’s being offered and to pick a program that is consistent with their learning style.

Nicole: If they don’t know their learning style, what would be a good way to find that out?

Dean DiAngelo: Well, when I say learning style, they would know if they’re comfortable with learning in a classroom. If they’ve never taken a course online, then, they ought to try one. I would do it in a non-credit mode, but try to do it from a school with the programs have been evaluated, so, you can have some comfort level that these courses would be consistent with what a program in a traditional program would look like. And then, if they feel comfortable doing that, they can feel better about participating in a program that’s entirely online.

The online modality is becoming more and more popular because people are becoming more and more comfortable with technology. We find this with our traditional students now -- our 18-22 year olds. Probably ten years ago, we would never even think of offering courses that were not in the classroom but whatever kid that comes on campus today has an iPhone, an iPad, and a laptop. They’re used to all of this technology. My six-year old grandchild downloaded songs from iTunes on my iPad last week. Technology for them is a way of life. And as more and more people become comfortable with this technology, the online world is going to expand exponentially.

Nicole: The learning outcomes are the same?

Dean DiAngelo: The learning outcomes are the same.

Let me just tackle that question one other way.

When I have someone come into look at our school to register in a program at the end of graduate level, the traditional 18-22 year old, I tell them to look at a school that they will feel comfortable with. For example, on our school our average class size is 28. And in other schools, they would have class sizes with 200-300 students in a class. Well, I’m not saying a class with 200-300 isn’t good, I’m just saying it wouldn’t be for everyone.

And so it’s the same thing when you’re looking for an online program. If you are comfortable with the online delivery method then you will do well in the program. And if you’re not then you should look for a face-to-face program.

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