When one thinks of MBA programs the heavy hitters of higher education come to mind: Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Northwestern, Penn State, North Carolina, etc. But for many of us (young or old) going back to school to get an MBA is an unattainable luxury not because we can can’t afford it (although money is always a consideration) but because few of us can simply uproot our lives and move to our college of choice, let alone quit our jobs and put our careers on hold.

Online vs. On-campus

Some believe that higher education in business administration means honing better communication skills and thus face-to-face interaction with humans must take place during the learning process. Therefore, the advantage of physically going to a school allows you to not only sit in class and interact with your peers and instructors, but also encourages you to join professional on-campus clubs that meet regularly. There is no doubt that such networking can only help an MBA student develop better interpersonal skills that serve a business career well.

However, you have to ask yourself does human-interaction have to take place the entire two years it takes to get an MBA in order for the degree to be effective? The purists of higher education will always say yes. But then again these are probably the decedents of the same folks who thought women shouldn’t be allowed to attend and graduate from Harvard (quick sidebar: the male and female students of Harvard and Radcliffe were not completely comingled until 1972). Culture changes over time and as a result higher education has to change, too, which sometimes steps on the sensitive toes of tradition.

The Dilemma

With the economy in a perpetually precarious state people are reluctant to quit their jobs to go back to school (and rightly so). However, getting an advanced degree could mean the difference between a higher pay grade or simply keeping your job. Online education allows someone with an established business career to earn an MBA without as much interruption as it would take to attend a brick-and-mortar school. Anyone who wants to pursue an MBA should be allowed to try, at the school of their choice, regardless of their job status or where they live. Why? Because now technology makes online and on-campus degrees virtually the same, which opens the door to higher education for a whole new demographic of people. This does not dilute higher education, but rather increases the education level of the overall population. In the long run that’s a good thing for everyone.

The Solution

Apparently University of North Carolina, University of Chicago, Northwestern, Indiana University, Duke University, and Spain’s IE Business School all think so, too. These all have highly-acclaimed business schools which now off offer online MBA degrees, in most cases with online classes taught by the same professors that teach on-campus. Some of them even include short-term residencies in their curriculum. For example, UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School offers weekend residencies worldwide as part of their online MBA program. And Duke’s Fuqua School of Business includes five brief residencies, even though the bulk of the coursework is done online. Although not required by most online MBA programs, residencies overcome the objection that online MBA degrees don’t include any interpersonal training.

Since traditional universities now (finally) offer online versions of their advanced degree programs (even though online colleges have been around for more than 10 years), it would seem that YES, online MBA programs do have a place in higher education. That’s not to say that a 21-year-old with a brand, spanking new undergraduate degree shouldn’t immediately pursue an MBA at a brick-and-mortar college if he or she has the opportunity to do so. But because of our changing world, including an economy that we haven’t seen the likes of since the 1930s, online education should not be disregarded as a lesser option. It is simply ONE option for someone to use as a means of bettering him- or herself.

Regardless of where you decide to get your MBA degree, you have to remember that obtaining your degree is the goal, so pick a college that accommodates YOU. If you’re already established in business why should you give up your career just to go back to school? Turns out you don’t have to, because when it comes to online education there are plenty of learning opportunities for all types of people, no matter where they happen to be in life.

Advance your career with a MBA!

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