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Online Learning: Pros & Cons

More MBA programs are going online—but are distance-learners getting the same benefits?

Mon Jun 24 2019

The world, as we know it, is quickly moving online.

Adults in the UK spend on average 24 hours a week on the internet. We do our shopping online, talk to our friends online, and watch movies online. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that we can do an MBA online.

Online, distance-learning MBAs are part of a growing trend towards putting more flexibility into graduate management education. 36% of online MBA programs experienced growth in 2018, compared to just 24% of full-time two year programs.

The opportunities online are many and varied. For those not interested in completing a full online MBA, there is the choice of executive education programs which are increasingly online.

The past decade, moreover, has seen the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), a chance for students to get a taster of business education in a shorter, cheaper format.

The jury, however, is still out. While online flexibility is making the MBA more accessible, are online MBA students getting the same experience as their full-time counterparts?

We’ve weighed up the various pros and cons of online learning:

PRO: Accessibility and flexibility


©SbytovaMN via iStock / used under this licence

Family, financial commitments, physical restrictions—it’s often easier to think of obstacles to studying an MBA rather than reasons to do so. Not all MBA students are young, free, and single—for many, online access might be the difference between earning an MBA or not.

Through distance-learning programs, students can get access to education from world-class business schools, from the comfort of their own home. This is significant, since over 60% of prospective students said that commitments to family and friends would impact their reservations towards applying for an MBA.

CON: Less financial assistance


Lordn via iStock / used under this licence

While online MBAs are certainly cheaper than a full-time program, financial assistance is more limited.

A Warwick Business School MBA student, for example, will pay $51,400 for a full-time program; a Warwick Distance Learning MBA student will pay just $41,764. At US schools, this will be much higher.

Only 13% of online students globally, however, receive financial assistance, compared to 45% of students for a full-time program.

Online students benefit by studying and continuing to work and earn a salary at the same time. But for those who can’t afford to break the bank for their education, a lack of financial assistance can be a barrier to studying an MBA.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Online MBA Programs In 2019


PRO: Work alongside study


©doble-d via iStock / used under this licence

It has become far less common for companies to sponsor employees to study an MBA as part of their employment, meaning an MBA can be perceived to equate to job uncertainty.

Distance learning, however, means that work and study can exist in harmony.

Given the flexibility of online MBAs, full-time workers can complete their classes in their evenings, or over weekends. While there are set deadlines for assignments, coursework can be completed at a pace set by the learner.

Many Professional MBA programs are already pursuing this option, integrating online learning as a significant portion of their part-time degree. The nine professional MBAs offered at WU Executive Academy have e-learning components in the run up and conclusion of modules which are done in the classroom.

CON: Lacks the ‘campus’ experience


©Cornell University

From Cornell Johnson’s lush state parks, to Warwick Business School’s soaring views across London, business schools are famed for their campuses.

For fully-online MBA students, the closest you’ll get to this will be on Google Images.

The campus experience goes far beyond the knowledge you are accumulating in the classroom. MBA programs encourage their students to get as involved as possible in campus life.

Harvard Business School, for instance, has over 80 student clubs for MBAs to join, from the entrepreneurship to the whisky, bourbon and spirits club.

READ MORE: Is An Online MBA Worth The Money?

PRO: Supplement established business knowledge


©Vadym Pastukh via iStock / used under this licence

One of the biggest motivations for online learning is to advance your own career, and one of the best ways is to add to your toolkit of skills.

Professional MBAs, with online elements, are the perfect way to advance your acumen, especially if you are coming from a management background. This might offer the opportunity to specialize in fields such as marketing or accounting; or it may just add theoretical knowledge to previous experience in business.

This is part of a trend of lifelong learning, where graduates are increasingly likely to come back to their business education years after their MBA. Schools like Wharton offer executive education courses to their alumni, free of charge.  

For prospective students, or students looking to upgrade their skills, many top schools offer MOOCs through platforms like Coursera, in everything from data analytics to corporate sustainability. As top b-schools like Stanford and INSEAD offer more of these courses, the more they are perceived as real business acumen.

CON: Networking and interaction limited


©nensuria via iStock / used under this licence

The classmates, the professors, the network. Business school isn’t simply about what you learn; it’s about the interactions you have and the connections you make.

The emphasis on group learning in MBAs can be diminished in the distance-learning format, where the program is designed around the individual and their own time management. While this provides flexibility, it might be argued that it does not reflect the nature of teamwork required in the workplace.

MBAs also provide ample time for networking, particularly with regards to meeting potential employers. Behind the screen of an online MBA, this face-to-face opportunity is less available.

The experience of the full-time MBA versus the online MBA seems to be in the additions which you get outside of the classroom.

While the content is the same, and the accumulated knowledge will read the same on paper, the full-time candidate has easier access to faculty, campus, and the network which can still be limited, or even non-existent, for the online learner.

An online MBA, however, is ideal for a particular type of candidate, who for financial, familial, or accessibility reasons, isn’t able to commit themselves to a full-time, full-contact MBA.

That online courses are growing in demand, at the expense of full-time courses, shows that this type of candidate is increasingly present.

 *Featured image used under this licence

Student Reviews

Birmingham Business School - University of Birmingham




On Campus

An amazing experience

Great, knowledgeable faculty with a beautiful campus. Lots of societies and clubs to choose from in accordance with your interest. One can also discover scholarship opportunities here. The course is perfectly designed and the career services at the uni are very helpful




On Campus

The beautiful campus and teaching expertise.

Overall the University of birmingham is just an incredible institution. From the array of expertise teachings and how phenomenal the campus is definitely enhances its beauty and is enriched with the amazing resources and incredible people that are always willing to help and make you feel welcomed everywhere you go. I would 100% recommend the University of Birmingham to be one of the best universities out there and through not only the various courses that they offer but all the social societies definitely adds to the fun and great opportunities that it provides




On Campus

Exceptional Support for international Students

Exceptional Support for International Students As an international student, my experience at the University of Birmingham has been nothing short of extraordinary, thanks to the outstanding support provided for international students. I would like to share my thoughts and experiences regarding the exceptional support I've received during my time here. From the moment I arrived on campus, it was evident that UoB prioritizes the well-being and success of its international students. Here are some key aspects of the support I've received: 1. Orientation Programs: The university's comprehensive orientation programs helped me acclimate to campus life, navigate administrative processes, and understand the academic system. I never felt lost or overwhelmed, thanks to the informative sessions and friendly staff. 2. Academic Advising: The academic advisors for international students are incredibly knowledgeable and approachable. They assisted me in creating a personalized academic plan, selecting courses, and understanding degree requirements. Their guidance ensured that I stayed on the right track academically. 3. Language Support: UoB offers exceptional language support services, including English language courses and conversation partners. These resources were invaluable in improving my language skills and building confidence in my communication abilities. 4. Cultural Integration: The university fosters a diverse and inclusive environment, making it easy for international students to feel like part of the community. There are numerous cultural clubs, events, and workshops that allow us to connect with fellow students and celebrate our diverse backgrounds. 5. Mental Health and Counseling Services: Recognizing the challenges that international students may face, the university provides excellent mental health and counseling services. It's comforting to know that support is available when needed, and these services are respectful of cultural differences. 6. Career Services: UoB offers exceptional career services tailored to international students. From resume workshops to job fairs, they've been instrumental in helping me prepare for my career post-graduation. The university's strong network of alumni has also been a valuable resource. 7. Visa and Immigration Assistance: Navigating the complexities of visa and immigration regulations can be daunting, but the university's dedicated staff provided guidance and assistance throughout the process. Their expertise made the experience seamless. 8. Housing Support: Securing suitable housing can be a challenge for international students, but the university offers assistance in finding on-campus housing options with flexible payments. This support ensured that I had a safe and comfortable place to live. 9. Financial Aid and Scholarships: UoB offers various scholarships and financial aid options for international students. Their commitment to making education accessible is commendable, they also provide financial support for graduation through the guild of students.




On Campus

student experience

I highly recommend the University of Birmingham. I think the school environment is very friendly to international students. I was able to get guidance and help from students in the school. I was also able to get support and guidance from the professional team on my career path. I would recommend the University of Birmingham to first-time international students and Masters students.




On Campus

There is always somebody to help!

The university respects the culture and background of their highly diverse student. It carters to everybody's need and puts its student first. It tries to the make the student feel at home and helps them deal with the university life.




On Campus


I love studying Pharmacy at Birmingham and would absolutely recommend it, especially because of the variety in every aspect of the course. Firstly, the variety of people you meet from all areas around the country, and even countless others from outside the country. Each person has a different background and experiences creating a melting pot of personalities to interact with. Next, the lessons - there are numerous types of lessons we encounter on a weekly basis from lectures to dissections to a computer workshops. Additionally, specific to medical degrees, I have 7 placements annually in hospital, community, and GP pharmacies. The only lack of variety in the pharmacy course is the classrooms since there are limited number we can use and the medical school is separate from the main campus. The only part I don't enjoy about pharmacy is the distances and unreliability of public transport in Birmingham. Living in the vale, the university is a long 25-minute walk away and my closest shop is over 10-20 minutes to walk. Although there are closer accommodations, I really love my flat with its modern decor, large room, and social aspect of the shared kitchen.




On Campus

Experience at University of Birmingham

University of Birmingham has been an outstanding university. They have provided complete support during COVID-19. The university is incredible when accessing support with mental health. I currently study criminology at the university of Birmingham. The course has been brilliant, with constant support from lectures and tutors to ensure that you achieve the best grade possible. I could not recommend University of Birmingham more!




On Campus


Great campus for studying with kind and professional staff and the campus is very well connected to the city center. There were so many people who wanted to enroll in the course that they had to queue for a new course for six months in advance. The classes were always crowded, but the professors never let anyone through. I love this uni




On Campus

A very welcoming uni

This university is regarded as one of the best in the world. They provide a welcoming environment that enhances the lives of the students because each one of them has a sense of community and a desire to study.