Why Do Online MBAs Remain Controversial?

Online MBA Controversial

It is no secret that online education is on the rise. In 2010, the Sloan Consortium revealed that 5.6 million students were enrolled in online classes, which accounted for 29.3% of the total enrollment of college students in 2009.

The increase in the number of students embracing online education has led to some of the most reputable business schools in America launching online MBA programs—including Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and more recently University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School just this fall.

Yet, despite the prevalence and appearance that online learning is becoming mainstream, it is still somewhat controversial among employers.

Are Online MBA Programs Comparable to Campus MBAs?

The controversy seems to stem from whether the admissions criteria and curriculum for online MBA programs are equal to that of their campus counterparts.

In a recent US News article, this issue is brought to light by various industry professionals. While the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Your MBA Online, George Lorenzo, holds a viewpoint in support of online education, saying that “The content of courses in traditional and online MBA’s are the same, so they ought to be treated equally,” Roy Cohen, a New York career coach, claims the opposite.

Cohen maintains that ‘“The standards for admission and matriculation are usually far more relaxed than traditional programs—full-time, executive, and part-time,’ he says. ‘[T]he vetting that is always assumed from the onset in the [online] admissions process cannot be relied on by prospective employers.’”

Online MBA Programs Still Need to Prove Themselves

Industry research seems to, in part, support Cohen’s claim. According to a 2010 Society of Human Resources poll, only 49% of the employers surveyed say that online degree programs are equally credible to traditional degree programs. Although 87% view online degree programs more favorably today than five years ago (dropping from 90% in 2009), 60% of the employers prefer job applicants with traditional degrees over those with online degrees.

However, the outlook for online MBA students is not all bleak. Online education is a convenient way for students to pursue higher education, and the fact that top ranked schools are joining the online education bandwagon is not only hard to deny, but is also a sign that online education is here to stay.

But it may take awhile for employers to catch up to the trend. In the meantime, online universities will need to continue to work towards establishing that their standards for online programs are as equally rigorous to those offered by campus-based universities. Over the years, online learning has come a long way, and it’s up to online institutions to publicize just how far.

If you would like to learn more about the employer perception of online degree programs, check out our full article.