It’s not only undergrads that graduate with a mountain of debt. MBA students may have it even worse when it comes to steep prices for an education. That may all be about to change, thanks to the University of Illinois and MOOCs.
One of the great advantages of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) is that they release students from the traditional shackles of having to show up at a certain time and a certain place for class. Now, even MBA students can take advantage of these benefits, and at a fraction of the cost of traditional MBA degree programs.
With their new iMBA, the University of Illinois is set to change the way MBA students receive their education (and their degree). Delivered at a mere fraction of the cost of even their own traditional MBA programs at the U of Illinois, the iMBA is the greatest news to hit the MBA circuit since the University of Chicago Booth School of Business offered the very first executive MBA for working professionals back in 1940.
MBA and MOOCs: The Perfect Match
MOOCs open up access to education for people who can’t attend class in person. This is especially helpful for working students, of which there’s no better example than the MBA student.
MBA students are more likely to already have a good job which they don’t want to sacrifice in order to go back to school. Many are mid-level professionals who pursue a degree in order to receive a salary bump, get a better job, or to learn how to better run their own small business. In fact, over half of all MBA students attend courses part-time.
So when the University of Illinois began offering their online and very low-cost MBA last year, it was lauded as a breakthrough. Here’s what it’s all about.
The iMBA at the University of Illinois
The iMBA program offers the usual roster of business-ready lessons with a focus on practical knowledge that enhances students’ careers in very direct ways. It’s got the usual management and leadership courses, combined with senior professors and guest faculty from top companies, like Google.
And, like any good MBA program, networking is a major part of the student experience… only with the iMBA, since it’s online, the students network with a much more global pool of fellow students.
There’s also advanced training on topics like innovation and shaping the digital world, both of which are important skills that can be used to gain an edge back in the job market.
Students may dive right in by signing up for the complete iMBA, or they may start with some non-credit classes any time. They may even opt for a complete non-credit certificate, or perhaps just one MBA course, taken outside of a degree-seeking program.
Why so many options? They allow students to try out the program in manageable chunks before committing (another wise move by U. of Illinois administrators).
It’s the same MOOCs, offered through the same company: Coursera. In fact, you can do the entire iMBA program without paying, but if you want that diploma to hang on your wall, you’ll have to pay… but at a fraction of the cost of their on-campus program.
It’s Through Illinois, but it All Started in Georgia
All the buzz around the new iMBA centers on the University of Illinois and how it’s pretty much a pioneer in the MBA MOOC. However, the iMBA probably wouldn’t have come about if it weren’t for the combined efforts of Georgia Tech and Udacity.
Three years ago, which is a lifetime in the MOOC world, Georgia Tech offered a $7,000 online Master’s Degree. This shockingly low-priced degree was made possible, of course, by the fact that it was a MOOC.
Not only did it become possible to earn an affordable (80 percent cheaper) Master’s Degree in Computer Science, but it was from one of the most highly-regarded institutions in the world for degrees of this type.
The Associate Dean for the College of Computing at Georgia Tech believes the school can maintain the same quality enjoyed by the on-campus students enrolling in the same degree program at this top-tier school.
Georgia Tech is showing us that MOOCs are not only effective, but sustainable game changers leading the way for programs like the iMBA from the University of Illinois.
Why MOOCs Work
In spite of what some doubters tend to assume, MOOCs come very close to recreating an actual classroom experience. Georgia Tech’s program is deemed very successful, in part because students actually feel as if they’re in a live classroom when they attend courses.
There’s no shortage of ways to meet and interact with fellow students, either. That should allay concerns people have about isolation in online education. This worry often arises as the second-most frequent objection to MOOCs.
Naysayers need not fear, however, since both the iMBA and Georgia Tech’s programs offer opportunities for scheduled discussion groups with other students. Of course that’s just the beginning, since interaction comes in dozens of incarnations, from Facebook groups to required group projects on which students collaborate with one another.
There is Already Tech Crossover Between the Traditional Classroom and MOOCs
Even traditional, classroom-bound students rely on the internet for project collaboration, using social media and other online communication platforms (ever heard of Blackboard?).
The hybrid classroom is already making full use of the online solutions that enable MOOCs to exist and thrive. Even teachers in traditional classrooms are using online platforms like Blackboard to disseminate course materials, accept assignments, and help students make up missed lessons. They’re also using the online chat feature with students, even though they see one another every day in the classroom.
What should skeptics take away from all this? For one, they should perhaps start believing in the value of an MBA earned online and for a fraction of the price of a traditional classroom-bound program.
The University of Illinois name brand should speak for the quality of the iMBA program. At the same time, the progress made by other MOOC programs like Georgia Tech’s should speak for the possibility that technology has actually caught up to our expectations when it comes to earning a bona-fide degree that’s delivered remotely.
For business owners and managers around the world, that’s the best news yet.