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The Assets of an Online MBA Program

Online MBA programs are on a roll. More business schools are offering them -- including schools with established offline MBA programs. More students are signing up -- some 50,000 students are enrolled in the programs published in the recently-released Financial Times' seventh listing of distance learning MBA programs. More renowned publications, like the Financial Times, are highlighting the growing number of online MBA programs. In fact, this year's Financial Times listing is the largest on record.

Seth Saunders is among a growing number of distance-learning students and alumni who are touting the benefits of online MBA programs.

"I loved knowing that I could try something I had learned and then share that experience in the online classroom the next week," Saunders said about his online business school experience. "I would then get great feedback from my faculty and other classmates."

What makes online MBA programs appealing?

Among these benefits are the relevance of the curricula, the flexibility of the programs, and the use of the latest education technology to interact with colleagues, at least according to Saunders as well as online MBA student Matt Spaur.

1. Relevance

A curriculum applicable to student careers is fundamental when it comes to the popularity of online MBA programs. Saunders said it was important for him to learn useful information in the classroom could be immediately applied in the workplace. It was also significant for him when professors would test student suggestions during their international assignments and provide them with feedback on developments.

"There were times where professors would ask our opinion, take what we said, try it out and then come back to the classroom and let us know what happened," Saunders said. "That to me was worth every penny paid."

2. Flexibility

Online MBA programs that allow students to go at their own pace or complete their requirements in more years than traditional business school programs are popular, especially among students who are working full-time. Despite the fact that he had to submit assignments and tests by deadline, Saunders said the ability to log into his classroom when it was convenient for him and to take one class at a time kept the stress level of completing an MBA program down.

"The all online format lets me study when and where I want," said Spaur, who's completing an online executive MBA through the University of Nevada in Reno. "I have good time management and study skills, so the flexibility helps me still have a decent life while working and going to school."

3. Technology

Students enrolled in online MBA programs may have access to the latest education technology -- a bonus in an increasingly gadget-driven world. This technology includes the use of tablets, electronic textbooks, and online videos. It also involves interaction with professors through online classrooms and online office hours, as well as students via e-mail, social media groups, and the Skype video-calling service. Some online MBA programs are even administering exams online, using software and cameras to monitor students, according to the Financial Times.

"Technology really helped create a personal experience," Saunders said. "I had great classmates and faculty that literally were all around the world. Online discussions were just as good if not better than those I had in my traditional university experience."

Technology can also reduce the cost of online MBA programs as students can connect from wherever they are and avoid travel expenses.

What's happening within online MBA programs?

To compile its seventh list of distance learning MBA programs, the Financial Times surveyed 48 business schools on accreditation and the types of courses they offered. Ninety percent of the online MBA programs surveyed are generalist programs. The Global Energy MBA at Warwick Business School is one of the few specialized programs, according to the Financial Times.

Online MBA programs may have rolling enrollment or limited yearly intakes. Among the programs with the most rigorous admission standards is MBA@UNC at the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School. The tuition of the online MBA programs listed by the Financial Times fluctuate between $28,400 for a UK program to $94,500 for a Spanish/U.S. program.

Some of the online MBA programs have a full-time schedule while others allow students working full-time up to six years to complete their courses of study. According to the Financial Times, the length of time allowed to finish the program doesn't increase dropout rates. Overall, 88 percent of distance students graduate within five years, and tend to have tighter affinity to their business school than those on campus, the publication reported.