In today’s business world, having an M.B.A. has become the gold standard sought by recruiters. In the recently released survey of 2011 M.B.A. graduates from the Graduate Management Council, 86% were employed, of which 93% found the job they were looking for. Those are pretty impressive numbers.
However, traditional business school programs are structured over a two year period and come with a sticker price that can put this prized degree out of reach. In addition, most programs prefer that candidates get some hands-on experience under their belt before they apply -- which can be a complication for potential students who have financial and family responsibilities.
But there is some good news coming from the b-school front -- more schools are taking a full-spectrum approach, offering different types of programs for M.B.A. candidates with specific needs. Following the long-accepted European model, some schools are offering a compressed, intensive one-year program. The Executive Master of Business Administration is a relatively new idea that is geared to mid-career professionals, and then there is the real game changer, the online M.B.A. degree program.
Take the case of one 51 year old woman who found herself back in the job market when she lost her position in the recent economic downturn. Even though she had decades of work experience, she found herself competing against job candidates twenty years younger with an M.B.A. on their resume. Taking stock, she enrolled in Kaplan University’s online M.B.A. program and is back in the game.
Of course, there are still nay-sayers when it comes to online education. But if anyone had any doubts about whether distance learning is here to stay, a recent column by is Thomas Friedman in the New York Times certainly makes it clear that the future of education is online.
“Welcome to the college education revolution. Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary. The costs of getting a college degree have been rising faster than those of health care, so the need to provide low-cost, quality higher education more acute than ever. At the same time, in a knowledge economy, getting a higher-education degree is more vital than ever,” the Pulitzer prize winner writes. “And thanks to the spread of high-speed wireless technology, high-speed Internet, smartphones, Facebook, the cloud and tablet computers, the world has gone from connected to hyperconnected in just seven years. Finally, a generation that has grown up on these technologies is increasingly comfortable learning and interacting with professors through online platforms.”
While the focus of Friedman’s column is the recently launched Coursera, a for-profit online platform hatched out of Stanford University, the message is clear. Online learning is becoming a mainstream option for students who seek a quality education that is affordable and can be adapted to the myriad family and financial concerns of 21st century life.
Of course, traditionalists insists that an important part of the M.B.A. experience is the networking potential that a typical two year program at a brick and mortar institution can give. However, many of these same institutions are starting to test the waters by incorporating online coursework in their M.B.A. curriculums and iconic institutions like Harvard and MIT are making huge investments in online learning platforms.
But as someone once aptly observed, getting traditional institutions to change is like try to make an ocean liner make a u-turn in a bathtub. Established online colleges and universities have the advantage of being able to keep updating and revising their curriculum to meet the ever changing demands of the marketplace. Ashford University recently renovated its online M.B.A. program, streamlining the coursework to prepare their students for a recovery-based economy.
There is no question that an M.B.A. can turbo-charge a career and provide the blueprint for a solid financial future. And now, thanks to technology and visionaries in the world of distance learning, these degrees are accessible and affordable. So to quote Mr. Friedman one more time,
“Let the revolution begin.”