The Financial Express

Unwrapping the concept of online MBA

Mohmmed Shahriar Sharif | Published: May 13, 2020 21:49:15 | Updated: May 17, 2020 22:07:21

Unwrapping the concept of online MBA

An MBA is one of the most sought after post graduate degrees in the world. It is the degree of choice for individuals from all backgrounds who wish to find new jobs, learn new skills, or increase earnings. An MBA can also help with career advancement as it equips an individual with leadership skills, strategic thinking, and other essential skills required for management level positions. It is also a great way to socialise with other like-minded individuals and create a long-lasting network.

Despite its apparent benefits an MBA degree is still difficult to pursue for many as it requires commitment and money. Most full-time MBA degrees take two years to complete and could be difficult to pursue for those in well settled full-time jobs or with financial commitments. There are some executive degrees which offer greater flexibility for working candidates, however, there might still be some relocation costs in addition to longer duration of study. The solution? Some top universities offer online MBA degrees to students who lack the flexibility and/or the funds of a regular MBA or EMBA.

What are the compromises then compared to traditional MBA? Well, the difference is shrinking day by day owing to growing technological capabilities and overall outlook of online degrees.

Below, the pros are analysed followed by the cons.

Lower costs: One of the main attractions of an online MBA is the cost savings to be made in this format. A full-time MBA at the John Hopkins University costs around $125,000. Compare that to their online MBA programme which costs only $83000. This is just the cost of tuition. Online MBA candidates save on housing, relocation, and the opportunity cost of lost income over the duration of the course. Therefore, it is an attractive option for those on a tight budget.

The same trusted quality: Although the medium of communication is different for an online MBA, the course curriculum is well aligned with the on-campus course. The faculty members are also often the same as the offline version. So, all in all there are little compromises on quality and curriculum when it comes to online MBA.

Greater flexibility: One area where an online MBA surpasses traditional ones is in the unprecedented flexibility it offers to students. Students can continue with their jobs and learn in their free time. There is also no need for relocation and costs associated with it. Students can learn in their own time using pre-recorded lectures, seminars and making submissions online through email, video, and other formats.

Relaxed admission requirements: Online MBA is not as competitive as  its offline counterparts as less people vie for a single seat which itself isn't limited in theory. Universities relax admission requirements for online programmes and some have been known to completely wave GMAT and GRE requirements.

Less hassle: For an international student the troubles of attending a university abroad is a big hassle. Starting with the whole admission process to visa processing, finding suitable accommodation, and then finally migrating to the new country the whole process is cumbersome to say the least. An online degree eliminates many of these hassles and saves time.

While an online MBA gives the above benefits, it also has the below cons associated.

Missing the campus experience: One of the major aspects of attending any course or university is the campus life. For an MBA this is even more important as there is the opportunity to meet people of varying background, age, and experience. In addition to this networking opportunity, there are also many hands-on projects and club activities available to on campus students. As a result, an online MBA sacrifices the immersive experience for a comparatively isolated one.

Extended duration: Since the timing for an online MBA is flexible and there are no fixed class schedules, it can lead to greater duration to finish the degree. After all, it is designed to facilitate working people and the downside here is the increased duration.

Job market demand: It is very important to pick an online MBA from a well reputed school and with proper accreditations. Or else, employers may look at it credulously. For on campus MBA, there are recruiters who conduct interviews, sessions, and provide job opportunities to the students especially at good schools. This is one channel which is also missing for online candidates. This is because most online MBA candidates already have a job and recruiters do not prefer online MBA candidates as much as regular ones.

Looking at the structure, cost, pros and cons it seems an online MBA can be ideal for many people. Even for prospective students in Bangladesh it seems like an attractive opportunity as they will be able to juggle both job and education while maintaining a steady flow of income. A lot of students enter the job market right after graduation and are unable to pursue higher education either due to time constraint and/or unwillingness to quit their job. The latter is very understandable considering the situation in Bangladesh as jobs are scarce. Add to that the costs of attending an MBA abroad and it becomes almost impossible for many. Online MBA can increasingly be a viable option for such people. That being said, here are a few online MBA programmes:

Kelley Direct Online MBA: The Kelley Direct Online MBA is offered by Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. Not only does its regular MBA rank high, its online MBA is ranked number one according to the US News and World Report, 2020. More details can be found by visiting https://kelley.iu.edu/programs/online.

Kenan-Flagler Business School Online MBA: This degree offered by the Kenan-Flagler Busienss School of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is tied with Kelley school of business. It offers multiple start dates for maximum flexibility. More details can be found by visiting https://onlinemba.unc.edu/

Illinois iMBA: The Giess College of Business of the University of Illinois offers its online MBA with the same high quality as its on-campus programme. It is relatively affordable and can be accessed through Coursera. More details can be found by visiting https://www.coursera.org/degrees/imba.

So, should one pursue an online MBA programme? The answer is relatively simpler for someone living in the US or in the same country as the programme. People might not have the time and/or money to pursue an on-campus degree and so an online MBA is a great alternative. But if one were to consider whether someone living in Bangladesh should get one, the answer is not all that simple. It is still a huge investment and the returns must be comparable. Perhaps the time could be spent developing some important trait such as leadership or networking skills? Obtaining a job abroad after completion will be extremely difficult if not impossible due to limited networking and opportunities. One also needs to consider how much their employer will value an online MBA degree if the purpose is career advancement. Moreover, there is hardly any precedent of Bangladeshi people enrolling in such degrees. Hence for now, an online MBA degree remains  elusive to potential Bangladeshi candidates. Interested people should ask themselves the aforementioned questions, weigh up the benefits and costs, and wait for some concrete success stories.

The writer has completed BBA from the IBA, University of Dhaka and is currently working in a  telecommunication company of the country. He can be reached at

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