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How Artificial Intelligence And Big Data Helped IE B-School Top The FT’s Online MBA Ranking 2017

The Madrid school has topped the table for four years on the trot

By  Seb Murray

Mon Mar 6 2017

IE Business School of Madrid is the world’s top business school for online learning in 2017.

That’s the message emanating from the Financial Times’ Online MBA Rankings, which the Spanish school has dominated for the past four years, and which saw a new challenger emerge and in addition revealed the growing demand for online MBA learning.

Read the latest FT Online MBA Ranking news

IE, which prides itself on innovation, produces online graduates who rate the business school highly on career progression. IE alumni are most likely to say that they achieved their aims and the school has the highest proportion (62%) of graduates working at department head level or above, compared with 39% on average for the 20 online MBAs ranked by the FT. Graduates of IE’s digital degree also earn the highest salaries on average — £191,000, a 44% increase on pre-MBA pay.

The school scored well across the board: is in the top-five for career progress, career services, online interaction and program delivery, and it has the highest proportion of international students, at 96%.

IE’s Global MBA is 15 months in duration, 20% of the teaching and coursework takes place on campus or in other study centres, and it costs €47,200 in tuition. 

Warwick Business School of the UK is in second place in the ranking, a spot it has also held since the FT began grading online MBAs in 2014.

The ranking is based on surveys of business schools and their alumni who graduated from online MBAs in 2013. The courses are assessed according to the career progression of alumni, the quality of online learning, and diversity of students and faculty, among other measures. The FT requires that at least 70% of program content be delivered online for a school to be eligible to be ranked. Seven of the programs are run entirely online but many are blended, reflecting the growing trend of combining online and face-to-face courses. 

The ranking comes against the backdrop of increasing innovation at business schools, which are deploying new technologies to teach from a distance and enhance classroom learning. Enrolment numbers on online MBA programs rose on average 7% for the 15 schools in the 2016 ranking.

While IE and Warwick have dominated the table, a new competitor has appeared in 2017. Isenberg School of Management broke into the top-three for the first time and put in its best performance, surging six places to No. 3. Isenberg’s strong career outcomes have bolstered its position. Its alumni are netting $159,000, a 43% increase on their salary at graduation and the fourth-highest of all the ranked schools. Isenberg is also in the top-five for value for money and in the top-three for online interaction and program delivery. 

Four online MBA programs made their debuts in the FT ranking this year. Three are from the US and there is a joint program, EuroMBA, delivered by six European schools from five different nations. George Washington University of the US is the highest new entrant, at No. 6.

Most alumni of the ranked schools said that they were satisfied with the online format, which has faced criticism for a lack of interactivity between peers and professors. More students said they were very satisfied with asynchronous, or self-paced study, (81%) than synchronous content (81%) or live streaming of lectures (74%). But online interaction between students and teamwork are not rated as highly, with about two-thirds of students saying they were satisfied. 

For IE, the ranking is the latest indication that its investment in innovation is beginning to bear fruit. IE first launched its E-learning unit in 2002. Since then, over 3,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students participate each year in online modules. IE was also the first business school in Spain to run Moocs on Coursera, a world leader in open online education, with 200,000 participants in over 150 countries. Last year, IE launched the WOW Room, a futuristic learning space that combines artificial intelligence, data analysis, emotion recognition systems, and the presence of experts using holograms. 

“Technology is revolutionizing our lives and we are moving in the direction it is taking us,” says Diego Alcázar Benjumea, executive vice president of IE Business School. “The WOW Room takes us to the next level of our commitment to technology immersion. We have invested 25 million euros in innovative learning projects over the last 15 years, a strategy which has gained us recognition as the best business school in the world for online MBAs.”