The increase in international demand for an MBA combined with the rise of all things digital has lead to a sharp rise in distance learning based MBA programs. This growth, however, reflects only half of the trend. On the other side, traditional brick and mortar universities are moving to incorporate distance learning courses. These merging aspects lead to a new trend of “integrated distance learning"-the integration of live, in-group instruction or interaction with a distance learning curriculum.
Both the traditional in-class and distance learning approaches to the MBA have some distinct benefits for the learner. For the in-class approach, the benefits include:
Practical / interactive instruction - because it is real-time, students may ask questions of their professor. The challenge of taking academic information to real world application is facilitated.
Team-oriented approach - many in-class programs are able to have students do projects in work-groups. Simulating the work environment, this method brings additional learning in soft skills or how to work with colleagues. Sharing viewpoints and learning to learn from peers can be a valuable element of the MBA education process.
Networking opportunities - through regular classroom attendance with other students and work-group assignments, students are able to form relationships with other people that have similar goals, experiences, and skills. These relationships may allow for future work opportunities, sales leads, introductions, insight, etc.
Likewise, the distance learning approach has some distinct advantages including:
Portability - being able to do study on the move or even in another city or country positively impacts the cost of the program; viability of completing an advanced degree; and/or the quality of education in which one has the time or logistical freedom to pursue their education.
Flexibility - whether synchronous or asynchronous in approach, a significantly increased level of flexibility exists when a student is not required to be in a classroom at set times each day or week. Asynchronous approaches allow the highest level of flexibility.
Increased learning potential - though some on-line programs have earned the designation of being “degree mills, " some quality programs have launched. Program participants, both students and instructors, are finding that learning which is not limited by a common denominator of other students provides potential benefits in material depth and/or extension of the time a student invests for additional study in areas of interest.
For a range of reasons including increase in demand, more experienced students that seek to continue their professional career, costs of building sufficient capacity in a brick and mortar system, and effectiveness of methodology, MBA offerings with a distance learning methodology are increasing both in the U. S. and internationally. As programs are seeking to maximize the benefits of their current approach, there is a growing trend toward distance learning MBA programs with on-location sessions. This integrated distance learning approach combines the benefits of both methods. As a result, the student benefits from portability, flexibility, an increased learning potential as well as practical instruction, a potential team-oriented approach, and significant networking opportunities.
Universities that are making this transition toward integrated distance education are coming from both camps-distance learning and traditional in-class programs. Some of the universities moving toward this model include the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University; Indiana Wesleyan University through partnership with the VLC Corporation; Athabasca University in Canada; and the Robert Kennedy College in Zurich, a partner of the University of Wales. Many other universities are moving toward integrated distance education through a variety of learning platforms and combinations.
Brit Boone is the president of GHP in Russia. A professional development firm, GHP develops organizations and leaders. With programs ranging from career development to International and Executive MBA offerings, GHP serves a range of current and future leaders.
More information on MBA trends and development resources are available at the GHP website and blog (ghprussia. ru).