There’s a recent story in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, titled “The Online MBA Salary Blues,” which discusses the idea that graduates of distance learning MBA programs may not see as much of a salary increase as those who finish traditional, class-based programs.
The story is mainly based on the entrance salary data for the inaugural cohort at University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School’s new online program, MBA@UNC. BusinessWeek essentially posits that since incoming students already make substantially more than the class-based students ($128,500 vs. $55,000 per year,) it will be very hard for the online grads to see the same increase that the traditional students see. Although this hypothesis is mostly speculative and ostensibly limited (after all, the online program at UNC has just begun, and there are only 19 students in the inaugural class) it will be a fascinating case study for distance learning programs generally, seeing as how UNC’s online program offers the exact same curriculum as its class-based program, for the same price.
Are online MBA programs comparable to classroom-based ones? We asked Andrew Atzert, assistant dean and director of the W.P. Carey MBA – Online Program at Arizona State University
Is online a compromise?
We developed our distance learning MBA program using the faculty who teach in our regular program and the same curriculum in our regular program. We’ve always had the philosophy that our MBA program is the same program as our regular MBA program in terms of the actual degree and knowledge you get from the program.
But at the same time, it’s different. What potential students think is that there’s a trade-off when you choose an online program. And the trade-off is that most people want face-to-face interaction.They want the ability to network with other classmates and faculty. So they accept the convenience of an online program, but they also feel like they’re trading off that interaction. The challenge for us is to try to not have as much of a trade-off, and to offer more interaction.
Online MBA programs can provide more flexibility than classroom based programs. But how does the actual experience compare? We asked Rachel Killian, the Marketing and Recruiting Manager at Warwick Business School.
What are the benefits of a distance learning program over a class-based one?
There are two main reasons why people would choose a distance learning program over a class-based program. The first of which is the cost, because typically a distance learning program is likely to be more affordable – particularly if people are looking for a part-time program but are not getting any corporate sponsorship or funding from their employer. And we have seen a fall in the last 12 or 18 months of the number of corporations that are able to sponsor students’ MBAs. For those people who are not getting funding, then a distance learning MBA is an affordable option. The second reason is that it gives students more flexibility in fitting their studies around their professional lives, but also if they have family as well, their family life. Because for us, the average age of our distance learning MBA students is about 34 or 35; and that’s a time of life where people are quite busy, so I do think that it gives people more flexibility.
They can study when they want, when it suits them, and when they can fit it in.