Why The Online MBA Matters, According To Business Schools

The QS Distance Online MBA Rankings 2018 features 50 of the world’s top business schools. Here’s what some of them have to say about the online MBA

The QS Distance Online MBA Rankings 2018 is the largest global ranking of online MBA programs, with 50 business schools featured this year.

IE Business School tops the list this time, while Indiana University's Kelley School of Business ranks highest in the US, and Imperial College Business School ranks best in the UK.

Should you consider an online MBA? Here are some key things we learned from this year’s results:


Online MBAs increasingly cover the same ground as full-time MBA programs

One major takeaway from this year’s ranking is how increasingly important it is for schools to offer online programs which allow MBAs flexibility in their studies while still covering all of the key modules of a traditional full-time degree.

"We have reinvented our Global MBA to take education in the field of digital transformation to the next level," says Ignacio Gafo, associate dean of IE Business School. "We instil in our online MBA programs the same intensity as our full-time programs, while focusing on the continual development of innovative pedagogies mixed with practical teaching.”

Of the six indicators used to compile this year’s ranking, IE Business School achieves its highest score for employability. This measures how many employers look to recruit graduates from the school. Clearly, the intensity of IE’s online offering is paying off. Although its program isn’t as well-established as others in this year’s rankings, IE Business School has comfortably secured top place.


Online MBA programs prepare you for the modern, technological workplace

One advantage of distance learning and coordinating group projects across multiple countries and time-zones is that you’ll be perfectly prepared for some of the demands of the modern workplace.

“Globalized teamwork, leading in a virtual environment, and exposure to disruptive technology are just some of the skills in high demand at top companies around the world," says Paolo Taticchi, program director of the Global Online MBA at Imperial College Business School.

Ranked third in the world this year, Imperial have been quick to embrace the possibilities offered by technology on their online MBA program. Parts of the course utilize The Hub—Imperial’s bespoke, award-winning virtual online learning platform. Using The Hub, Imperial have been able to adapt the full-time on-campus program for online delivery, ensuring students receive the same experience regardless of how they choose to study.


Not being in the same room doesn’t mean you can’t network

One perception of online MBA programs is that the increased remoteness of studying at different times, away from your fellow cohort members, makes networking and bonding with your fellow MBA students much harder. However, schools have taken great pains to show that this is not the case.

Ash Soni is executive associate dean of academic programs and professor of operations and decision technologies at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business. He says that "business is about relationships. Our Kelley Direct Program works hard to keep online students connected—virtually and in person—through team projects, immersive courses around the world, and residencies on campus"

For Ash, increasing networking and interaction is crucial to students' development and brings them closer to achieving their professional goals.

Kelley School of Business has been ranked second in the world this year. It scored a perfect 100 for its establishment in the online market, one of the six ranking indicators. Climbing one place since last year, this well-established online MBA program also scores highly for its class experience.


Virtual reality could make online MBA programs even more immersive

What can we expect for the future of online MBA programs? Ray Irving, director of teaching and learning support at Warwick Business School, which is ranked fourth this year, might have the answer.

He explains that “with advances in virtual reality, we will soon be able to place students in a professor’s office for a one-to-one tutorial, in a lecture theatre to listen to a guest speaker, or in a boardroom to ‘take part’ in senior management discussions.

"This is a truly immersive learning experiences," he concludes.

The idea of conducting your studies while wearing a VR headset might seem silly, but it’s clear that online MBA programs are up to the task of utilizing the latest technological developments to take their standards of teaching even higher.

Online programs may soon become indistinguishable from their full-time counterparts, benefiting all students who are unable to commit to a full-time degree.


Craig O'Callaghan is head of content at QS Quacquarelli Symonds

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