Is An Online MBA Worth $89,000?
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While online MBA programs are nothing new, elite business schools are starting to offer the option to students, with UNC’s Kenan-Flagler school the latest to join the party.
When the dean of the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School first broached the idea of launching an online MBA program, his faculty and students were highly skeptical. “Many of our full-time MBA students are not convinced this is a good idea,” says Dean James Dean. “They underestimate the challenge of what it is for people to remain in their jobs and work and study for the degree.”
Even Dean concedes that he had doubts. “To be honest, I was initially skeptical,” Dean says. “I wondered: Can you really do an MBA online that you could be proud of? I came around to the idea that this was a great opportunity for us and could change the nature of business education at the top schools.”
The upshot: This July, Kenan-Flagler will be the highest ranked business school in the U.S. to offer an online MBA program. The school expects to enroll 50 students in its initial class at a cost of $89,000 each, a price tag that includes up to four weekend residencies at different locations around the world. UNC is partnering with 2tor Inc., a company that provides the technology platform and instructional design to deliver courses online.
The two-year program, dubbed MBA@UNC, will feature pre-arranged sessions that use live streaming video as well as archived lectures and interactive simulations that can be accessed 24/7. Case study and lecture discussions also will be in both real time and via forum boards.
“The level of intimacy will be at least as high or higher than in the classroom because there are fewer people involved,” says Dean. “You can hide in the back row in a classroom, but if you are one of 10 on a computer screen, you can’t.”
“Ten or 12 years ago, online dating seemed to have some scary edge to it,” says Ian Van Tuyl, who as vice president of production at 2tor is working with UNC faculty to build the curriculum. “Today even your grandmother is urging you to go online and find someone. My sense is that online degrees will become as accepted as online dating is today.”