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What does the surge in online MBA programs mean for business schools?

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To Megan MarasApril 8, 2022 12:33 PM

Outside of NYU Stern School of Business in Manhattan.

Spencer Pratt / Getty Images

While the number of online MBA degree programs has skyrocketed in recent years and pandemic-related factors are part of this growth, the low cost and flexibility normally offered by online programs also contributes to the popularity of this format. doing. Being able to work full-time while attending business school is another advantage because students don’t have to forget their salaries and can apply what they have learned in real time.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, online MBA programs were becoming more popular. According to data from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the number of US accredited schools with a fully online MBA program increased from 284 to 526 between 2016-17 and 2020-21. Did. This is an increase of 85%.

What is driving the rapid demand for online MBA programs? And has this growth continued since the first year of the pandemic? luck We talked with two top business school officials who recently expanded their MBA program’s online options to learn how and why virtual programs have become so popular.

Business schools need to offer flexibility to be competitive

“One of the first things we always emphasize when talking to future applicants about NYU Stern’s part-time MBA program is flexibility,” said NYU Stern Business School’s Deputy Director of MBA Admission. Isser Gallogly says.

In November 2021, Stern luck’Ranking for starting a hybrid MBA program. Students with the Stern Online / Modular Part-Time Option can complete the Core MBA Curriculum online and then complete some of the electives directly in New York City through modules, weekday classes, or Saturday classes. increase.

“Adapting to the changing workplace, coordinating and meeting the changing needs of working professionals is our number one priority,” says Gallory. Given the rise of hybrid work and the growing demand for the ability to customize the MBA experience for work and life, the launch of the program was particularly timely and relevant, he adds.

Similar demand emerged at Emory University’s Goyseta Business School for several years before the university decided to offer students an online executive MBA option.

“The biggest limitation of the Executive MBA Program, online or face-to-face, is student time,” says Jaclyn Conner, Vice Dean of the Executive MBA Program at Goizueta. “Students are busy with time and their encounters in the program, regardless of format, must be maximized.”

Goizueta announced the launch of an online executive MBA in February 2022. Programs that require applicants to have eight years of work experience and be hired in full-time roles are the first type offered by top schools. ..

“We have become an on-demand culture that expects fewer boundaries related to space and time,” says Connor. “Educational experience is no exception.”

One of the most fascinating aspects of an online MBA degree program is the ability to apply what professionals have learned in real time. While the pandemic has certainly influenced the surge in demand for online learning, it has also changed many other workplace factors. Being able to witness these changes at the same time while learning business and business strategy is a major selling point of the online MBA program.

“These students are navigating a constantly changing business environment and need to have options for a learning experience,” says Connor.

Interest in online MBA programs is slowing

According to the 2021 Application Trends Survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admissions Council, by 2020, 80% of schools reported an increase in the number of applications for online MBA programs. However, this growth has slowed significantly. In 2021, only 30% of schools reported an increase in applications for online programs.

However, the ability to improve and pay for careers without completely suspending life remains attractive to many professionals, and the pandemic emphasized the need for more flexibility. Full online program applications aren’t as growing as they were a few years ago, but Stern is one of many business schools that are incorporating more online elements into their existing programs.

“Our goal was to continually increase the flexibility of our existing part-time MBA programs,” says Gallogly. “Therefore, the purpose of launching this new option was not to try to create some sort of online MBA program. I feel that face-to-face experience is essential to NYU Stern’s part-time MBA program. increase.”

In addition to the new online format, Goizueta also offers on-campus and hybrid options for executive MBAs. Allowing varying degrees of flexibility within the program is an important part of meeting the needs of future students.

“In most conversations with applicants, they already know the option that best suits their work, life, and learning needs,” says Connor. She adds that the decisions are not about opportunities, networking, or class content, but primarily about the type of learning environment that best suits the student, as all students have the same resources available.

See how the school you are considering has progressed luck’Ranking of the best business analytics programs, Data science programs, and part-time, executive, full-time, And an online MBA program.