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Is Distance-learning Business Education Rightfully Seen as Inferior to Full-time Programs?

Torri Myler
 


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Learning institutions have seen a tremendous explosion of interest in business education that shows no signs of stopping despite numerous setbacks that are thrown its way. Some programs have gained a cult status and it is common for students to pay exorbitant prices for services they get there. Some professors and researchers have become prominent talking heads and authorities well beyond the academic world, their books compete with others on bestseller lists and their ideas are highly valued. Having an MBA degree continues to open doors to more exciting positions, more prestigious companies and more comfortable salaries, accelerating professional development. Originally as a sidekick to full-time programs, universities started offering distance-learning courses, which have since been growing in importance and gaining more and more ground.

However, they are often looked down on. This attitude can be partly explained by snobbishness that regular MBA candidates exhibit towards anyone who falls short of securing enough resources to take time off and engage in the experience unreservedly. A unique atmosphere has grown around full-time students, who are seen as totally immersed in professional development, with plenty of time for contemplation and getting through key business issues in depth. Setting themselves apart from work and/or family for some time, they are more susceptible to personal and professional growth, more concentrated and more dedicated.

Another weakness that is often brought up by distance-learning detractors is that is misses the vibrancy of regular classrooms, which are comprised of people with different business background, experience and expertise. It is not only the interaction quality that enriches everyone, but also the networking potential that is hard to repeat elsewhere.

There might be some truth in it. Indeed, keeping a few balls in the air is always more difficult than focusing on just one activity at a time. A lot of it is nothing but a myth, though. There are advantages to going though a business education program from home or from work, the most important being that most ideas and solutions can be immediately put to a demanding test in a real-world environment. As courses progress, distant learners might start implementing their new knowledge and enhance their professional position well before full-time students come back to business. This is especially valuable when the motivation to start extra training in rooted in the needs of a specific industry, workplace or project.

But for a lot of students who choose distance-learning executive training programs it is not really a question of weighing pros and cons, but a more practical issue. Because of some insurmountable restrictions, like being located in a place without ready access to full-time quality business education or being tied by family or other duties, hundreds of hopefuls rely on alternative programs. In fact, as demand for innovative executive training programs rises around the world, distance-learning may one of the most effective avenues of its provision.

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