What’s Different About an Online MBA?

As if there weren’t already enough decisions to make regarding your advanced business education — what school you will attend, what concentration (if any) you will take, what courses you will enroll in, etc. — thanks to the internet, you have one more choice about your future education: traditional or online?

Thanks to the proliferation of online learning, there are hundreds of digital business schools helping prospective students earn their MBAs over the internet. Yet, to many non-traditional students, the idea of obtaining an online degree — especially something as prestigious as an MBA — seems odd. What, if anything, is different about online MBA programs, and why should anyone choose to go to school online over the traditional route?

Online MBAs Are Legitimate and Valuable

Despite two decades-worth of misconceptions about online education, employers recognize the value of an online degree. First, most “traditional” education programs take place at least partially online; in 2016, more than 6 million students were enrolled in at least one online course, which accounts for nearly one-third of all higher education enrollments. Second, there are notable advantages to earning one’s entire degree over the web, especially if it is a graduate degree like the MBA. Overall, employers are interested in hiring workers who boast prestigious credentials, and an MBA — online or not — fits that bill.

Online MBAs Follow Your Schedule

In the past, students earned MBAs in programs with rigid course schedules. Unfortunately, for students who had full-time jobs, who had families, and who had other commitments, traditional MBA programs meant ending or suspending many of those obligations for years while they sought their degree. Online MBA programs allow students to watch lectures, perform readings, and complete projects almost entirely on their schedule, which means they can fit their advanced education into their free time — and not the other way around.

Online MBAs Demand Participation

Passive education isn’t as effective as active education. In traditional education environments, students can sink into the shadows, completing entire courses without interacting once with professors or peers. However, this lack of involvement isn’t beneficial; passive students tend to retain less than students who actively participate.

Fortunately, online MBAs all but mandate participation from all students. To prove that students have studied sufficiently, many online courses require online discussions, presentations, and more, which are hard-baked into grading rubrics. Still, posting comments online tends to be less anxiety-inducing than speaking in front of a full class, so introverted MBA students can feel as comfortable as extroverts while taking online courses.

Online MBAs Are More Diverse

Overwhelmingly, traditional MBA programs are filled with students who live and work in the surrounding area. Often, these programs pull students directly from undergraduate business schools, so classrooms are populated by people with largely the same background.

Conversely, students can and do enroll in online programs from anywhere in the world. It is useful to become comfortable working alongside people with different life experiences within an educational environment, so MBAs can excel in diverse workplaces after graduation. Plus, interacting with a diverse group encourages creativity and the spread of innovative ideas, which is ideal for MBAs.

Online MBAs Are Accelerated

Even better, students can save time as well as money by enrolling in an online MBA program. Traditionally, MBA programs require at least two years of full-time study to complete. However, some online programs allow students to finish all necessary credits in as little as 14 months. Accelerated programs are more intense than typical MBAs, but for those who want to get the best credentials fast, online is the best option.

Online MBAs Boast Lower Tuition

The cost of attending an MBA program will vary from school to school, but in general, online education is cheaper. This is because online education does not require physical space or classroom tools, both of which are exceedingly expense. Instead, students supply their own equipment, and teachers organize course materials in virtual environments. The savings incurred by schools are often passed onto students.

Online MBAs Enhance Tech Proficiency

Speaking of students supplying their own equipment, the opportunity to become more familiar with technology is not one to be ignored. Businesses are increasingly relying on digital devices and services, so being accustomed to working online is a notable advantage. Entering the workforce with a list of tech proficiencies is as beneficial as entering with an MBA, and online students have a serious edge in working with tech tools.