High-Tech Online MBA Progams Don’t Come Cheap

October 25, 2011 · Leave a Comment 

Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, has one of the most high tech – and expensive – online MBA programs out there. However, students are becoming more and more willing to pay the price for the online education because of the extensive measures used to create a first-class experience as close to the residential experience as possible.

Most important to the universities when creating these online schools is retaining quality, “if anything has to be compromised, we’re not going down that path,” says Doug Shackelford, an associate dean at University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School. This has led to online programs that are as rigorous as they are high-tech. New electronic tools are also gaining more use because of students comfort with the technology.

New Technologies Revolutionize Online MBAs

New methods to combat traditional disadvantages of online learning have included sophisticated video-conferencing technologies, where multiple students work on projects and schoolwork in small teams that are carefully selected and coached to optimize the group dynamic. Elspeth Murray, an associate dean at Queens, emphasizes, “we don’t just chuck people into a group and say ‘hope you get along’… We work very hard to establish trust.”

Students also get their course work on CDs that are “very, very souped-up Powerpoint presentations,” according to Jennifer Francis, senior associate dean of Duke University’s Fuqua School. Many students also use split screens, where they can view their work in one monitor and their professor in the other during video conferences. During these conferences they can raise “virtual hands” and communicate with teammates or their professor through a microphone or instant messaging. Some video-conferencing classes even use an “eagle-eye director,” which uses a camera that closes in on who is talking. There are also virtual boardrooms for big or small groups. In addition to virtual group meetings, some programs offer “chat sessions” with professors online, which are basically an online one-on-one phone call.

This is only a sampling of the new technology that has been created to manage group interactions in an online setting.

The Price Tag

The result of all the new technology, in combination with occasional real-life meetings (Queens requires an initial two-week residential stay on-campus at the start of the program and two other one-week sessions at other points in the program), has made an “E-MBA” something worth paying for. For example, Queen’s and Fuqua charge 90,000 dollars for a 16-month program.

However, in exchange, the participants can continue with their current careers – wherever they are – and get an MBA from top-tier schools. Also, many traditional protests of online education, such as lack of teamwork development, can no longer hold water when the small cyber-classes are structured to be just as engaging as a class in a physical classroom.

Of course, you have have to be prepared to pay for it.

Read Financial Times’ report on the topic here.

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