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US Business Schools Shut MBA Programs To Focus On Online Content

A group of leading US business schools have shifted their focus to distance learning – a digital revolution in business education.

Several US MBA programs have shut their doors and have flipped their content online or plan to teach flexible programs – at evenings or at weekends – as business education adapts to a changing market.

In the past few months a number of business schools have announced plans to close traditional MBA programs that are taught on campus, highlighting the challenges facing an education sector criticized as out-of-date.

Just before Christmas the University of Charleston became the latest to cut its bricks-and-mortar program. Its business school will stop offering daytime MBA classes in 2015.

The business school’s dean, Scott Bellamy, told local media that demand for daytime MBA courses is falling because prospective students are already in work.

He said the university is looking at converting its evening MBA classes into an online program, according to the Charleston Gazette.

In October Wake Forest University said it would close its daytime MBA program in 2015. It will instead focus resources on its flexible MBA courses, the school said, which are taught in the evenings and at weekends, and which use technology to teach from a distance.

Wake Forest business school’s dean Charles Iacovou said at the time that “business education most innovate”.

Virginia Tech’s Pamplin School of Business said it would cut its full-time MBA degree to offer only part-time programs. It wants to focus on executive, evening and weekend programs. Applications to its full-time MBA have fallen while part-time applications have risen for the past few years.

The University of Miami has also moved away from the traditional, two-year MBA that dominates business education in the US. Its MBA is now also taught part-time and at evenings, allowing students to maintain jobs. It still runs a full-time, two-year program.

The one-year model is favoured in Europe but there are signs that the shorter course is gaining further ground in North America.

The Graduate Management Admissions Council said in 2014 that there were 189 one-year MBA programs, compared to 173 four years previously. This includes programs at Goizueta Business School, Kellogg School of Management, and Cornell in New York.

At the same time top business schools have launched a tranche of new flexible MBAs or programs taught through distance learning. This has opened up a new market for learning technology companies but has raised the question of whether business schools can innovate to continue attracting managers to their increasingly expensive postgraduate courses.

Andrew Crisp, director of education marketing consultancy CarringtonCrisp, said that flexibility is key for business schools.

It enables people to learn at anytime and anywhere, often at their own pace, he added. “Technology is having a dramatic impact on business education.”  

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