Kelley School of Business: Inside The QS Online MBA Rankings 2021 Programme |

Kelley School of Business: Inside The QS Online MBA Rankings 2021 Programme

By Linda M

Updated April 28, 2021 Updated April 28, 2021

Here's what Professor Will Geoghean, Interim Chair of the Kelley Direct Program, had to say about the school's performance in the QS Online MBA Rankings 2021.

The QS Online MBA Rankings 2021 have been released, revealing the business schools setting the standard for online MBA offerings across the globe.

Now in its 10th year, the rankings analysed the offerings from 57 schools based on several indicators, including employability, class profile, class experience, and faculty and teaching.

One of the best-performing programmes this year was the online MBA from Kelley School of Business, which ranked first in North America and seventh worldwide.

TopMBA caught up with Professor Will Geoghean, Interim Chair of the Kelley Direct Online MBA, to discuss the school’s performance in the rankings, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on online MBA admissions, and future plans for digital learning.

TM: Given local and global restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the past year has been particularly challenging for business schools across the world, as many had to pivot towards remote learning even for in-person programmes. Have you seen a difference – whether positive or negative – in candidate interest for your online MBA offering? And did you implement any changes to the delivery of your programme to adapt to the ongoing pandemic?

WG: As the market leader, we are pleased to have seen growing interest in the online MBA modality over the past two decades. Although we have sustained increased enrollment over the programme’s existence, the pandemic has served to exacerbate this trend, perhaps as people have become more comfortable with remote work or due to fewer external commitments.

Kelley Direct Online MBA inquiries increased 28 percent year over year and first phase programme applications increased by 41 percent. We saw a 46 percent increase in applicants accepting our offer of admission in Fall 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. This dramatic growth has continued and Fall 2021 is on track to match our Fall 2020 cohort.

Given our status as the top ranked programme in the nation, we were pleased to see an overall increase in interest while still being able to shape our class and uphold our admission standards and high-quality student profile. In fact, many of our metrics have improved over this time including years of experience, GMAT/GRE average scores, and percentage of female students.

Our programme was natively born as an online programme. We were the market leader in 1999 and continue to innovate and adapt the design of the programme to meet the needs of students and employers. Our programme delivery is suited to the circumstances of the pandemic, providing the flexibility of online courses complimented by the robust networking opportunities that have always been a hallmark of the Kelley Direct programme. Our entire student experience is built within a virtual structure including coursework, networking, career services, and student leadership associations that are facilitated entirely within the online environment.

The only element of the programme that was adapted during the pandemic was our hallmark residential experience, Kelley On Campus. Although typically offered at our main campus in Bloomington, Indiana the experience was offered virtually as intensive idea and design sprint competitions.  

TM: What makes your online MBA programme unique and a top provider of online learning?

WG: We begin by appreciating that every student in our programme is unique, so we offer a curriculum that is highly customisable to meet student needs, while also providing them with the core knowledge and expertise they need to be successful. Three integrated core course sets focus on business foundations, key business functions, and an exploration of the future of business. In addition to building critical analytical and strategic thinking capabilities, Kelley students develop a deep specialisation within one of our seven majors or dual degree options. This customisation of our newly revamped curriculum allows students to experience 50 percent required core coursework plus the benefit of 50 percent elective course options.

Even while participating online from across the globe, students feel connected to one another and to supportive full-time Kelley faculty during weekly live online class sessions. Networking is a key component of our programme, particularly during Kelley On Campus experiences. These residencies give students an opportunity to solve live business cases, not simulations. This intense experience fosters deep connections as students apply their learning to assist real-world clients with real-world challenges. Students in Kelley Direct also benefit from one-on-one career coaching with their own dedicated coach, gain knowledge from renowned Kelley School of Business faculty, and take their learning into the marketplace through global and domestic consulting and immersion opportunities.

Unique among online MBA programmes is our Student Leadership Association, a network of smaller sub-associations which are geared towards students in a variety of functional or demographic areas such as our Finance Association, Women in Business Association, or Military & Veterans Association. These groups bring in professional development opportunities for students such as industry speakers, alumni panels, and skill-development webinars. In addition, these groups host virtual and in-person networking experiences, assist with onboarding new students, and provide leadership as student liaisons to the Kelley Direct programme office.

TM: Your programme scored particularly high for the class experience and employability indicators. Why do you think that is?

WG: Class experience: Any quality MBA places the student experience at the heart of the programme and Kelley Direct is no exception. Our award-winning faculty understand the adult learner and the online environment because they have been teaching in this modality longer than any other MBA programme. Kelley faculty deliver all aspects of our courses. The same faculty who record asynchronous lecture content also facilitate live sessions and grade assignments. We do not outsource to teaching assistants or adjuncts. Our faculty utilise a variety of teaching tools, platforms, and strategies designed with adult learners in mind to ensure that virtual live class sessions are dynamic and engaging, that course content is relevant to today’s workplace, and that students can network with peers through team assignments and group discussion.

Employability: While it may sound hokey, we believe that when you join Kelley, you join our family, and we provide a plethora of career services for both current students and alumni. Our students have access to the Office of Graduate Career Services which offers personalised, one-on-one career coaches who guide students in their professional development and help them attain their career goals. We offer other resources, such as job boards and tutorials for cover letter and resume development, offer negotiation and LinkedIn tips, as well as access to company research databases. Another outstanding resource are our career development courses. These six-week, career-focused courses allow students to explore opportunities, develop a career plan, or prepare for case interviews. Courses are taught by highly experienced career coaches who provide Kelley students and alumni career guidance for life.

This article was originally published in April 2021 .

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Written by

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 


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