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What You Can Gain from Online Business School

Online MBA programs are in the limelight: U.S. News & World Report has published its first ranking of online MBA programs an increasing number of traditional, brick and mortar business schools have begun to offer online MBA programs; and tens of thousands of students interested in enhancing their professional skills are enrolling in them. This may be because investing in online MBA programs could pay off.

"Most of our students receive promotions," the chairman of Pennsylvania State University's iMBA track, Ashutosh Deshmukh, told U.S. News & World Report.

If you're considering an online MBA program, you could be wondering: What should I look for in them? How do they work? Who will I meet? You can find some answers below.

Evaluating online MBA programs

U.S. News & World Report ranked 164 schools in the Top Online Graduate Business Programs. Participating schools offer at least 80 percent of their course content online. Rankings were based on admission selectivity, faculty credentials and training, student engagement and accreditation, and student services and technology.

  1. The admissions selectivity ranking reviewed mean undergraduate grade point average, mean GMAT scores, acceptance rate, and test and essay requirements as part of the application process. Washington State University topped this ranking.
  2. The faculty credentials and training ranking evaluated the percentage of faculty members with Ph.D. degrees, at least two years of online teaching experience, and online education training. It also evaluated whether the business school had in place a faculty peer review process. Arkansas State University-Jonesboro came out first in this ranking.
  3. The student engagement and accreditation ranking looked into class sizes, group work opportunities, and professor feedback. It also looked into business school accreditation as well as Americans with Disabilities Act and anti-plagiarism policies. The top school in this ranking was The University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
  4. The student services and technology ranking listed programs that incorporate diverse online learning technologies. These technologies could allow live tutoring, online simulations, and access to a business career center. North Carolina's Gardner-Webb University earned first place on this list.

Business schools ranked in the top third of at least three of the four rankings were named to the U.S. News' online graduate business program honor roll. Fourteen schools made the honor roll, including Arizona State University's W.P. Carey School of Business, Temple University's Richard J. Fox School of Business and Management, and George Washington University's School of Business.

Understanding how online MBA programs work

While rankings provide some understanding of MBA programs, they're limited to what they evaluate. If you're considering enrolling in an online MBA program, it's also useful to learn how they work; this can be done by talking with an online graduate.

A human resources coordinator and independent consultant from West Bloomfield, Mich., Katrina Williams obtained her online MBA degree in human resources Management from Capella University. She took two classes per quarter for two years to complete the online business school program.

"I chose to attend an online school because it was flexible around my work schedule and family obligations," Williams said, adding that studying from home also eliminated her transportation costs.

To attend business school, Williams would log on to a designated business school website. There she would check e-mails, assignments, and discussions for each course. She would interact with professors via phone or e-mail and with her classmates via e-mail, chat, or web conferencing services. She would post discussion comments and submit assignments and exams through the business school site. However, Williams' business-school experience extended beyond the online classroom. She attended online career coaching sessions, worked with a counselor to fine-tune her resume, and received tutoring online.

"I truly had a great overall experience," Williams said. "The staff was always willing to help. The professors were knowledgeable of their topics of expertise. It felt no different than being in an actual classroom."

As Williams' experience shows, enrolling in an online MBA program could be a rewarding experience. You could save time and money while you learn -- and potentially discover a promotion.