With the coronavirus sending the economy into a recession almost overnight, these are uncertain times. As always in economic recessions, many people will be investing in their educations in order to increase their competitiveness, career stability, and earning power.
What makes this moment unique is how many prospective students may be considering getting their degree online, versus attending classes on campus, particularly given social distancing requirements that could last months or years.
If you’re considering an MBA and you’re a little skeptical about the benefits of an online education we’ve put together a list of pros and cons of online MBA programs:
Online MBA Pros
An online MBA certainly seems more attractive now, in general and at a high level, than it did a month ago. Here are some key reasons:
An online MBA is highly adaptive.
An online MBA program adapts to your lifestyle. This is a key advantage in comparison with an on-campus degree, and that’s even truer in the coronavirus era. You complete coursework from wherever you’d like, whether you’re self-quarantining in your bedroom or working from a mobile hotspot in the park. But the adaptability also applies to time.
Online MBAs allow you to pick between synchronous and asynchronous classes. Synchronous classes involve attending lectures, seminars, and discussions at the same time as all the other students, while asynchronous classes allow you to access course materials entirely according to your schedule. For parents now home-school their children during the coronavirus outbreak, this is crucial.
There are clear financial benefits. It’s generally cheaper, but you get the same credential.
Cost simply matters more in this new economic environment. While there are certainly some exorbitantly priced online MBAs—with the top degrees maxing out in the $50,000 range—many of them are much more affordable, with most programs’ tuitions falling in the range of $5,000-10,000 per year. Of course, the adaptability of an online MBA means you can also keep working while getting your degree.
Online MBAs are open to all kinds of students in all kinds of situations. Many able-bodied students take the requirements of on-campus education for granted, not realizing that it’s inaccessible for many prospective students with disabilities, special needs, etc. And of course, it’s accessible in an era of potential intermittent social distancing requirements.
But the accessibility of an online MBA goes beyond physical concerns. It’s also much easier to gain admission, as online MBAs are typically much less stringent about requiring applicants to take a standardized test. Over 95% of on-campus MBA programs require applicants to submit GMAT or GRE scores, compared to just over 50% of online MBA programs.
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Online MBA Cons:
We just don’t know what will happen with the Coronavirus, so we must consider the downsides given this uncertainty.
COVID-19 concerns may be too big an influence on our collective thinking at this moment (or vice versa).
At a high level, if the situation stabilizes rapidly, an online MBA becomes relatively less attractive, and some of these more traditional ‘cons’ to an online MBA become more relevant.
It’s harder to network.
Networking with professors, other students, and industry representatives is an important part of getting an MBA. And it’s best done in-person. However, many students who pursue an online MBA are already employed, and enroll because they want to advance within their organization or just to build their skills. But it would be wrong to say there’s no networking with an online MBA—but you must be a bit more proactive.
Potential employers may attach a lower ‘signaling’ value to online MBAs, viewing them as slightly easier to pursue and complete.
The stigma associated with online learning, particularly in this new COVID-19 era, seems to be decreasing. But, if part of the reason you are seeking an MBA is purely about adding credibility to your resume an online MBA may be less attractive. In my opinion, some employers might still view something done online at Indiana University (for example) as less impressive than an MBA completed in-person at the same school.
So what should you do?
If you were already considering an online MBA, COVID-19 probably makes this a much better, perhaps even a clear, choice for you. But if you were not really considering it, or it was a bit of a longshot, the situation is less clear.
I might say that, if it was something you never would have done before, COVID-19 is not a reason to consider an online MBA now. But if you would have considered an online MBA or were in fact considering one, you now have a very strong reason to pursue doing your MBA online.
About the Author
Mark Skoskiewicz is the founder of MyGuru, a boutique provider of online tutoring powered by a small but extremely experienced team of passionate GMAT and GRE tutors. MyGuru helps students build customized study plans and focuses on a mix of core concepts and test-taking skill development. Mark holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.