The online Master's in Business Administration means boffo business for colleges and universities, as professionals everywhere try to remain ahead of job-market churn by constantly upgrading their professional skills.
This has meant that schools offering this degree must themselves constantly upgrade not only so as to meet this demand, but so as to attract more education consumers to themselves, as well.
An October 31, 2011 U.S. News and World Report article brings word that one school, Florida-based St. Leo's University, a private Roman Catholic institution, has announced "a new $12 million building for its School of Business" – and this despite the fact that $4 million of money came from Donald Tapia, an alumnus of its online B.A. and M.B.A. programs.
A symbiosis between the "brick-and-mortar" and "bits-and-bytes" facets of colleges and universities appears to be emerging, the first imbuing the second with academic credibility, and the second returning the favor to first in cold, hard cash.
So much cash is being returned that many big names are jumping into the online education game. "Some of the highest ranked U.S. News's Best Business Schools have online M.B.A.s," the U.S. News and World Report article reports, "including Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, Indiana University—Bloomington's Kelley School of Business, Pennsylvania State University—University Park's Smeal College of Business, and University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School."
Yet all that glitters is in this case not gold; some tarnish stubbornly clings to this otherwise glittering veneer of harmonious interdependence between classroom-based and Web-based learning. Of course, this flaw tends to make itself apparent at the worst possible time, namely, when the online MBA degree holder is searching for work "Just 34 percent of the nearly 450 human resources professionals surveyed for the report said they viewed job applicants with online degrees as favorably as alumni of traditional programs," the U.S. News and World Report continues. "Fifty-five percent said they wouldn't penalize online degree holders with the same job experience as candidates with traditional degrees, but only 15 percent thought online degrees were appropriate for executive-level hires."
It would be tragic to see the upper echelon's of the corporate hierarchy closed to aspirants who, though otherwise completely qualified, bear the stigma of an online M.B.A. The fact remains that the convenience and flexibility of these programs prove irresistably attractive, especially when you consider that the alternative consists of entering into a traditional graduate program. A July 7, 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek article offers a clear sense of what this latter option involves in terms of the student's level of commitment:
Going back to school after years in the workforce can be jarring. Just consider a return to sitting through hours of lecture, late-night study sessions, student clubs, and stress-inducing exams. Before preparing for the academic rigor and competitive job search that a top MBA program entails, it helps to consider the practical problems many new students will encounter, from developing a budget sans salary for two years, moving to campus, and settling the family into a new life.
Many individuals desirous of pursuing an M.B.A. would find themselves buffaloed by the amount of upheaval and demands on their time that a tradition program makes. When you already work 40-plus hours a week, precious and fleeting do leisure moments become. To such folks, then, a traditional graduate course of study is as impractical as it is unpalatable.
The remedy therefore lies in upping the perceived value of degrees obtained online – not only for business programs, but for others such as criminal justice and legal studies as well. Doing so will only improve the quality of the workforce by adding to the stock of qualified candidates. After all, digitization in so many areas of the economy has increased overall demand for highly skilled workers. When so much opportunity knocks, it's depressing to think that many will not be able to answer the door because of certain ingrained biases with regard to the means by which they obtained their credentials.