Though many popular for-profit online colleges offer business programs, their lack of accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) makes the degree seem lackluster in comparison to traditional programs.

However, in recent years many traditional colleges have recently branched into the realm of online courses, offering MBA programs completely online.

Even top-ranking MBA programs at schools like the University of North Carolina, Pennsylvania State University, Indiana University, and the University of Florida now provide online programs, allowing online students to graduate with the same prestige as students who attend their physical campuses.

Standards for admission to online and traditional MBA programs remain the same, and many of the program courses are even taught by the same on-campus professors, creating the same quality education across the board.

And schools like Penn State require even higher standards for their online admissions, allowing a smaller percentage of students to participate in the online program than the regular, on-campus MBA program.

Other schools, like The University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, have been waiting to offer an online MBA program until technology could ensure such quality education, said Kenan-Flagler spokesperson Allison Adams.

The Kenan-Flagler business school will be offered in fall of 2011, using modern technology to provide online students with the same experience as their campus students.

Still, some schools remain convinced that online education does not provide the adequate training for their MBA students. Harvard Business School, for instance, does not have an online program in place and said in a school statement that the idea is not in consideration because of the “nature of their teaching pedagogy.”

Harvard’s discussion-based learning method is not something to be replicated in online courses, according to the statement.

Schools like Indiana University’s business program, Kelley Direct online MBA, have opted for a compromise in their online programs, requiring an allotted amount of on-campus time, working in groups and making business plans for start-up companies.

These technique is based on an idea supported by the U.S. Department of Education, which released a study suggesting that online and in-person teaching, or “blended” learning is the most effective type of education.

Kelly Direct’s program shows that the demographic of online students differs from the traditional campus demographic. The online MBA program has an average student age of 31, which is three years older than the traditional demographic. And students enrolled in online courses begin the program with an average income equal to the traditional students’ income when they leave the program.

This makes sense when considering that most online MBA students are more experienced in the career field, entering the program with the hopes of furthering their existing career path rather than drastically changing the direction of their future.

Such statistics ring true for Penn State’s online iMBA program, which was established in 2002 and admits 120 yearly. Program chair Ashutosh Deshmuk said the majority of the program’s students are already employed, and their main goal in the program is to achieve upward mobility in their existing job.

An informal survey indicates most Penn State iMBA students receive promotions or change companies for a job at a higher level, Deshmuk said.

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