The Re-Invention of Traditional MBA Programs -
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Renowned Business Schools Offering Online MBA Programs

What do you do when you want to go to business school, but cannot leave your current location? You go online…not only to visit, but also to attend a renowned MBA program.

MBA students gathered recently online to participate in the GMATCH Virtual MBA Fair, the second event of its kind sponsored by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the organization that administers the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), generally required for MBA admission.

"The virtual environment literally opens up a world of information to prospective MBAs and gives them access to schools that could be a great fit for them that they might not otherwise even know exist," says Stacey L. Dorang, assistant director of MBA admissions at Penn State University's Smeal College of Business, adding that school representatives find these events useful as they meet potential students "we wouldn't have the opportunity to meet in a live setting."

The virtual fairs are not the only events relying on new technologies to enhance the MBA experience. A sluggish economy in developed countries and demand for business education in emerging countries have prompted traditional MBA programs to gradually come online.

Susan Cates, executive director of MBA@UNC, a new MBA program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School that replicates its traditional MBA online, says about the target market: "They could live in Shanghai or Chicago, Anchorage or Nairobi, Manteo or Mumbai. They might be expatriates, professionals whose jobs require extensive travel or frequent transfers, members of the military and people with commitments, whether young children or aging parents, who need the flexibility of an online program."

Virtual Business School Fairs

In November 2010, the GMATCH Virtual MBA Fair allowed students from 125 countries to meet 56 business schools in two days, free of charge. It also hosted panels sponsored by business schools, students and alumni. MBA programs located in North America, Europe and Asia participated in the event, including:

  • Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business
  • UCLA Anderson School of Management
  • HEC Paris
  • Cambridge Judge Business School
  • The Hong Kong University of Science and technology
  • China Europe International Business School

During the panels, students learned how to prepare an attention-grabbing business school application, apply their MBA in today's uncertain economy, and find out why students already enrolled decided to pursue an MBA. They also learned how to prepare for the GMAT.

A similar event in April 2010 drew participants from 68 countries.

Lisa Piguet, associate director of admissions and marketing for the full-time MBA program at IMD in Switzerland, says she was initially reluctant to participate in these events, as IMD is known for its "personal, face-to-face contact with people." However, Piguet says that after meeting "high-caliber candidates" at the online fair, "I would do it again."

Traditional MBA Programs Now Online

UNC Kenan-Flagler is already recruiting 50 students who will become part of its first traditional MBA offered online.

"The new MBA@UNC program will continue our tradition of excellence based on the quality of the students, faculty and curriculum," says James W. Dean Jr., dean of UNC Kenan-Flagler. "What will be radically different is how we deliver the program. This exciting new approach will transform UNC Kenan-Flagler as we define the direction of global business education."

MBA@UNC technology should allow professors and students to interact in real-time during a variety of activities, including:

  • Live online classes where students may exchange ideas with professors and classmates
  • Live office hours where students may ask questions and receive guidance
  • Virtual group meetings where students may tackle assignments with peers around the world

At the end of each quarter, students and professors should meet in person for weekend immersions at designated global locations to wrap sessions, host speakers, conduct simulations and mock interviews, and network with international peers. At that time, they should also complete exams.

"High-quality teaching and learning experiences are critical to our approach, and we are ready to shatter perceptions about online education," said Douglas Shackelford, associate dean of MBA@UNC and the Meade H. Willis Distinguished Professor of Taxation. "Technology has transformed all parts of our lives and, ultimately, it will redefine education, too. We are excited to be in the vanguard of that change."

UNC Kenan-Flagler is accepting applications for its first online MBA class, scheduled to start business school in June 2011. The $89,000 tuition of the two-year, online MBA program also includes books, texts, and student fees, as well as the lodging and food costs of the four-weekend immersions. Fellowship for highly qualified U.S. and international students could be available, as well.