Going the distance

The University of Florida’s Warrington School of Business tops the Economist Intelligence Unit’s just-published ranking of distance learning MBA programmes. Florida’s students are impressed with the quality of the school’s distance learning materials, the programme’s value for money and their sense of connection to the school. Spain’s IE Business School ranks second, with UK’s Warwick University third.

Distance learning MBAs are becoming an increasingly important sector of business education, allowing students from around the world to earn degrees from top-quality schools without having to changing jobs or move abroad—often at a fraction of the cost of a full-time programme. For these very reasons they are also becoming increasingly popular with employers.

The idea that distance-learning programmes are in some way the “poor relation” of the MBA, particularly compared with full-time programmes, is no longer tenable. But they are not for the faint-hearted. Have you taken an MBA by distance learning? What advice would you give to those looking to go down the distance learning path? Or do you think that there is no substitute for immersing yourself in campus life?


19 Responses to “Going the distance”

  1. RobM Says:

    Personally, I feel one learns a lot from one’s peers, whether this is at work or B-school. DL MBAs simply cannot deliver this crucial aspect of study.

  2. Raymond Says:

    I agree completely that much learning occurs through interaction
    with peers both in teams and in the cohort. At the UF MBA program,
    there is a lot of thoughtful interaction on message boards that I think
    is better in some ways than a live classroom discussion. Students are
    able to interact in a forum where more thoughtful discussion can
    take place, taking more time to compose arguments, etc.
    There is also much more time for interaction with the teacher through
    message boards and email than in a live classroom setting.
    We also meet in person during a 4-day orientation including a
    ropes course and a weekend at the end of each of the seven terms
    to take final exams and meet the next set of professors.
    I know most of the other students in my cohort pretty well.

    (I am about half finished with the 27-month UF Internet MBA program
    and have been very satisfied.)

  3. Calvin Says:

    It all boils down to where you are in your life and career. People learn differently at different stages.

    If you have the pre-requisite work experience that most MBA programs require of applicants, then you should already be experienced in interacting, communicating, influencing, leading, following, interacting, and contributing to discussions. People who bring these qualities to the classroom certainly enhance the experience for others, but the more important reason why MBA schools require mature students with management experience is because the the MBA program is not a quick-fix for people who lack this experience. Ultimately, after all the chit-chat and friendship, graduation is based on passing tough exams on hard skills and business techniques (even in so-called “soft” areas like marketing!).

    For people who honestly have the level of work/management experience that MBA schools require, people with personal drive who really just need to obtain the academic component of their management skill set, the distance MBA programs are worth pursuing.

    Avoiding the classroom means not getting bogged down on easy topics while the rest of the class wrestles with it and also not getting left behind on difficult topics because the instructor raced through it because of lack of time (spent coaching the class on the easy topics).

  4. About Distance Learning Says:

    7 Strategies for Success with Distance Learning

    Distance learning has opened doors for many students, especially for those who cannot afford to pay for the high fees of full-time courses. Although online distance learning courses have many advantages over on-campus degree courses, many factors come …

  5. Satya Kumar D V Says:

    I feel “distance learning” is an old phrase being used in the context of online education, collaborative learning, e-learning or asynchronous learning which rely on the use internet technologies. This is an inflexion point in distance learning or learning itself. I agree campus life is great but learning from peers is useful but internet has changed learning itself. Webinars allow participation by audience anywhere in the world and can give the same learning experience as being actually present there. If technology can be leveraged sufficiently and the models of learning and the teaching methodologies are reviewed, I wonder why more colleges are not coming out of their old mind sets and offering online lectures and seminars. We can reduce our carbon foot prints for sure with the avoided travel.

  6. deepak m. gala Says:

    It is reality which we have to face for future. Online learning is the next big thing in education. It is just a transition for example writing hand written letters to email communication. You will still find people writing hand letters (wanting class room training) but email communication will keep on increasing (wanting online education).

    Hopefully, we all accept it as norm and use it to our benefits.

  7. mike Says:

    All in all, the content with regards to distance learning MBAs was good. However, it was not totally encompassing. It failed to discuss what I believe is the most important issue. That of accreditation. If you want to pursue an online mba, the rist thing that you need to determine about the school that you are interested in is its accreditation. The gold standard accreditation is AACSB. If you are getting a degree from a school that is accredited by AACSB, you can rest assured that you are getting a qulaity education. One that is reimbursable by employers. One that will allow you to transfer your credits anywhere. One that can not be questioned. The second level of accreditation is the ACBSP. This is the silver standard. Still extremely reputable. These 2 accreditations are business school specific. To be eligible for this, a school has to have regional accreditation. AACSB and ACBPS are both sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Education. Look for those schools.

    Next, is name recognition. You need to go to a school that employers will recognize. If you are not going to a top level school than name recognition is essential. For instance, not named here as a top online mba is the California State University Dominguez Hills online mba. Most people across the country have heard of the California State University system and the caliber of education that they offer. Good luck

  8. Tony Barbeta Says:

    I am currently finishing an MBA with the Open University Business School and can only say that it is not for the faint hearted.It takes a great deal of dedication and self- discipline, far more in fact than a full time program.
    The accreditation of the school is also very important as it gives some garantee of quality in both the tuition material, support and systems available.The OUBS has AACSB, EFMD-EQUIS,EFMD-CEL and AMBA accreditations.
    The quality of study (written, audio, video etc)material is of paramount importance as well as access to on-line library and student/peer online conferencing forums.
    I am very happy with the program especially the face to face schools and interaction with other students as well as the individual weekend schools around Europe, it gives one the opportunity, to meet and interact with different cultures, realities and business backgrounds.
    This type of MBA gives added flexibility in learning but at the same time forces one to have greater discipline to achieve.
    One added advantage is the possibility for you to study at your own pace/speed.
    This is trully a great solution for the future.I rercommend it.Good luck

  9. K H Says:


    “Personally, I feel one learns a lot from one’s peers, whether this is at work or B-school. DL MBAs simply cannot deliver this crucial aspect of study.”

    Actually, it delivers it in the same way you would receive it in the real world. I can’t think of the last time I was in a classroom at work. However, every day I am communicating with my peers and employees online, in conference calls, or collaborating through virtual means. I can’t think of a better real world example than that. The collective experiences of my teammates and the collaborative process is refined in a way that sitting down in a classroom just cannot match.

    I am doing a dual degree (MBA at Indiana University and a M-GM degree from Thunderbird), and the diversity of the cohorts, the quality of the instruction, and the cutting-edge electronic delivery are unsurpassed. Hopefully in 2008, EIU will climb a little further out of its Eurocentric hole and examine the top tier business schools in the US, and see that their Online components are delivering at a level comparable to their in-class peers.

    I think a traditional student who questions a predominantly online degree should try a top-tier online course and THEN make an EDUCATED decision. For more challenge, do that while working full-time, applying the things you learn in the classroom in real time. I could have gone to a top 5 school full-time (3.6 GPA, 710/46/42/6.0 GMAT +15 years work experience, including 10 years as a business owner), but it didn’t fit where I am in life, with a family.

    In reference to other comments above, I agree whole-heartedly that AACSB certification is the gold standard, and should be the first filter a student considering any MBA program should apply. Online degrees are still beset with imitators, schools that would not survive in a brink and mortar world. They, as anything else, should not serve as the stereotype for a predominantly online education. Research and let the school’s merits shine through.

    Good luck to all in their pursuits!

  10. PR Says:

    I think KH’s comments hit the nail on the head. Most people who are against online education or think it is infereior have never even bothered to take the time to take an online class. This would allow them to discuss INTELLIGENTLY the quality of an online class.
    I pursed my master’s degree online and I can tell you it’s not easy, by any means. Additionally, I was working a full time job.
    As far as losing the classroom interaction with students, I can get that at work. I am learning and interacting with not only my peers at work but also business professionals in networking and professional organizations that I am a member of. That experience is more relevant that sitting in the classroom any day.
    If you want to pursure a degree online, pursue it a a traditional, bricks & mortar school, AACSB accredited, that has degree programs online (Duke, Syracuse, Indiana-to name a few). This way there is no issue of quality.
    For the pundits out there, please do not think that online education is consists of only the for-profit schools and other non-AACSB accredited schools.

  11. David Says:

    Personally, I feel face to face interaction with peers is a benefit for every MBA program. Developing a network with peers is one of the most important things you can do. This network and learning is enhanced with a classroom experience, while online learning should still be utilized. Some innovative MBA programs such as the partnership between Gallup (Global Consulting Organization) and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln offer an MBA (http://mba.gallup.com) that includes three ten day classroom modules with online learning mixed in. This allows individuals from all over the world to participate in the same program while keeping their jobs and not moving. I find this to be the best solution to allow distance learning and personal interaction with executives from around the world.

  12. Pankaj Says:

    My $0.02…

    I am enrolled in a similar program at Duke (called the Cross-Continent MBA). I wanted to keep my job due to some dynamics in my local job market, yet I had a need to pursue an MBA.

    My program meets every 10 weeks for a week (a week of lectures/classes), and then we get back to our daily lives (whilst working on assignments/projects/exams and having class/discussion online once every weekend). I find this to be a good solution – you get quite a bit of face-to-face time with your peers and develop some good relations/contacts. Also, the distance bit is all group work, and with the team spread across various time zones, i think it does a good job of preparing you for a more global job market. At the same time you don’t have to be out of the job market for 2 years.

  13. Huw Jackman Says:

    Hi all,

    I’m interested in your ideas around the best b-school to pursue a career in Private Equity/Hedge Funds/Investment Banking sectors. I’m currently in strategy consulting with 15 years experience. Thanks in advance.


  14. Tim Says:

    My orgainzation believes that an MBA is a plus if you bring one with you, but does not want to invest in an MBA for existing employees, so executive MBA programs where the company supports the employee is out. My travel schedule is intense. I log between 130,000 and 210,000 air miles per year, so a tradtional program is out. Distance learning seems the best option for me. We’ll see.

  15. Virtual MBA Says:

    Florida is probably the best choice for an online MBA in the U.S. The online MBA at Indiana University Kelley School of Business is at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), not Indiana University – Bloomington, which has the residential MBA. There are significant differences in the transcripts and diploma for the online MBA because IUPUI is a separate university. Florida doesn’t have these problems.

  16. Erik Says:

    I just got the axe from my banking position and I’m thinking I’ll just hide out in business school until it makes sense to get back into finance. I’m still in the process of selecting a school and have considered studying abroad. With the economy in ruins, it’s nice to see someone’s offering some admissions guidance for us last minute applicants: Veritas Prep MBA Admissions Blueprint. See y’all there.

  17. haris Says:

    I see MBA quite help for employe cannot leave work and cheaply , my exprience attend the class open university kuala lumpur , combination class room and personalize, on Saturday & Sunday when the work is off , able to KL, the others The good sylabuss and Facilator to improve my knowledge and amazing exprience education, And Today I do my best work with knowhow MBA

  18. Esther Says:

    I always thought that distance learning degrees are inferior. I would say, executive MBA would be the best option for someone with experience. However for me as a full time working mother, I would find it extremely difficult to make a commitment to this programme and therefore I am considering distance learning. Will this help me in my career and to enhance my salary? I am still not sure.

  19. Vijay Says:

    I’m currently interested in pursuing an MBA through DL. I would like to have a guidance of University of Liverpool in this forum. I understand that it is not AACSB certified or AMBA certified. However it has EFMD certitication. Is it worthwhile to go for this program? Will prospective employers have a high opinion about this program?

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