5 Reasons Why Online MBAs Are Exploding in Popularity

5 Reasons Why Online MBAs Are Exploding in Popularity main image

The demand for online MBAs is increasing. Gies College of Business recently announced it’s suspending enrolments to its full-time and part-time MBA programs, in favor of shifting investment to its rapidly growing iMBA and they’re far from the only business school placing greater emphasis on their flexible online programs.

Online programs are booming because they suit today’s MBA students more than the traditional full-time program. “Having a really global professional existence doesn’t allow you to commit to any reasonable time frames,” Ed Perryman, Global Online MBA alumnus at Imperial told us.

“I travelled a great deal with work and knew I’d miss lectures if I undertook a weekend or part-time MBA program. I needed to be able to learn on the go, fitting it around my professional life.”

To find out more about why online MBAs are becoming such a desirable qualification, we spoke to Imperial College Business School, Imperial College London, which was ranked third in the world in the QS Distance Online MBA Rankings 2018.

It’s the most flexible form of MBA

An online MBA attracts students for whom the traditional on campus experience wouldn’t work, either due to family or work commitments.

Students on the Global Online MBA at Imperial attend a two-week induction at the beginning of the program and complete their Capstone Project halfway through, both on Imperial’s campus in South Kensington. However, most of the program is studied online using the school’s e-learning platform which students can access anywhere, anytime.

Talia Hussain, founder of Ramnation, told us: “Putting my business on hold didn’t seem like an opportunity. I needed the flexibility to work and study at the same time without sacrificing on earnings.”

“Being able to study flexibly was incredibly attractive. Set dates and times don’t always fit the schedule of someone who doesn’t have the conventional nine-to-five day and has to travel globally for conferences and meetings as part of running their business.”

Andy Durban, Student Recruitment Manager at Imperial College Business School, added: “Over the years that I’ve been talking to prospective MBA candidates across the world, I’ve noticed a definite shift in the programs they’re looking for.

“While there will always be a place for traditional face-to-face programs, modern professionals are increasingly looking for something that allows them to work towards a prestigious, recognized qualification, and crucially, one that doesn’t remove them from their busy work and family lives.”

You can immediately apply what you’ve learned

Online MBA students can apply what they learn to their workplace immediately, something full-time MBA students are unable to do.

For example, Perryman was promoted to Group Sales and Marketing Director at a leading provider of private education while studying at Imperial.

He told us: “In this role I work closely with the CEO and the Finance Director on our broader strategy. The progression of my role means I now have more interaction with the board and private equity owners.

“Coming from an exclusively marketing background, I’ve learnt a broader level of business acumen on the online MBA that gives me more credibility in the boardroom.”

One feature of Imperial’s online program, which has an equivalent at many other top business schools, is the Personal Leadership Journey (PLJ) module. This is structured to help students develop their career strategy, build on their leadership skills and develop self-awareness.

Ceri Willmott, a careers consultant at the school, told us the module involves self-paced learning, reflective exercises, personal one-to-one support and interactive plenary sessions: “Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of the relevance and impact.”

Recent graduate Asmar Atif told us: “The PLJ was the highlight for me – it helped me to develop self-awareness of the skills I need to develop.”

An online MBA attracts a diverse and powerful network

Students on online MBAs bring a diverse range of experiences into the virtual classroom, and this diversity of experience and background can be a huge asset, ensuring powerful peer-to-peer learning opportunities.

Crystal Grant, Head of Admissions at Imperial, said: “One of the things that’s most impressive about our Global Online MBA is the incredible diversity of the class.”

“Our position as a business school at the heart of one of the world’s leading STEM universities attracts candidates from engineering, tech and healthcare, alongside traditional MBA backgrounds like finance and consulting – and increasingly more creative industries.”

Technological advances have also ensured online MBA students don’t miss out on the level of interaction and networking enjoyed by full-time students. There’s no reason why online students can’t still build an influential global network from their cohort.

Online MBA students routinely work and collaborate online and across time zones. Atif told us: “We didn’t feel geographically apart because of technology. For example, my class had a WhatsApp group and then sub-groups split into topic areas.

“We interacted daily: if one person had a question, then lots of others would drop in to help. Every month, we took turns to give a virtual presentation on how we applied our learning to what we’re doing in our companies.

Technology can create an unparalleled learning experience

Business schools are becoming increasingly more sophisticated in the way they use technology, whether it’s the simulated bank trading floor at Warwick Business School or IE Business School’s Window on the World technology, which is used to deliver interactive and engaging lectures.

At Imperial, the school’s award-winning Edtech Lab have designed and built The Hub, a unique and innovative learning platform. The Hub replicates the essential parts of an on-campus program, while maintaining a flexible format to suit online students.

Students have the space to discuss and explore with their online classmates – typically logging in up to four times a day. They can post and share comments on articles, case studies, and completed exercises – insights that might not be heard during an in-class experience. 

The Hub is constantly innovating and improving based on student feedback. The fact the technology is owned and developed by the school allows them to easily incorporate new technology and ideas.

Perryman told us: “I found the way online recorded content was executed really engaging. For me, having the ability to download program content, get on the plane, and fire through an hour’s worth of video was perfect.”

Online MBAs are increasingly prestigious and well-regarded

While online MBA programs were once a fringe, inferior qualification, they have now come to be seen as valuable and respected by employers around the world.

Plus, some providers like Imperial offer students the option to take elective modules on campus, alongside full-time and part-time students, eradicating the barrier between the on-campus and online programs even further.

At Imperial, all students receive the same Imperial MBA degree upon graduation – regardless of how and where they studied. You’re given the same level of access to the school’s alumni network too.

Grant told us the admissions process is also near-identical to the full-time equivalent: “It’s as rigorous and thorough as our on-campus programs, and we look for the same aptitudes, strengths and potential for academic and career success.

“Our MBAs all graduate with the same qualification and become lifelong ambassadors for Imperial, so selecting the right candidates is really important. By making our Imperial MBA available online, we’ve received applications from high caliber candidates looking for a flexible MBA from a prestigious institution who might not have applied otherwise.”

Written by Craig OCallaghan

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