As I’ve said before, the decision to get an MBA was a natural one. But to get an MBA online is its own decision.
When I had my “It’s time to go get your master’s degree” epiphany, I was pleased with myself that I’d chosen business. But I have a career as a writer and journalist, and it was clear to me that I wasn’t willing to give that up for two years to immerse myself in the world of B-School. I also have my sights set on working in both a non-profit/policy capacity, as well as learning the ropes of the business journalism world while I’m in school. Additionally, I have a full-time writing job to keep. I like to live (and, especially, work) in a multi-faceted but interconnected world. And that’s why I chose to pursue an MBA online.
I often find myself having to justify my decision to friends and family that are traditional academics, who “just can’t understand” the advantage of obtaining a degree online. In fact, before I’ve even finished applying to schools, I’ve been met with several opportunities (read: I’ve been baited) to justify my decision, and I’d like to do it publicly as I embark on this From Start to Finish series.
Online Learning Is the Future
We live in a fascinating and rapidly changing time. Children are learning to use touch-screens and apps before they can talk. Adults are working longer and, as their pensions sink and their Social Security checks all but bounce, they are fighting to stay relevant, employable, and healthy in new and exciting ways. Classes are taught at Ivy League universities about the urban situation, through the lens of an HBO show called The Wire. Reality TV is more popular than ever, and dance music today sounds like the noises robots make before they die. It’s a weird, weird world — made more bizarre, I’m sure, by my natural inclination to examine things, as any lifetime student of philosophy, in the abstract. And people are being forced to adapt and change more quickly than ever before.
While I don’t foresee an untimely end to traditional brick-and-mortar schools, it is clear that distance and online learning is the future. I believe that, within several years, many of the nation’s top schools will (and already do) offer excellent educational options through an online learning platform. Connectivity is at an all-time high, with social media being a cornerstone of alumni networks and job-seeking strategies. And there are a few American business schools taking the lead. In the lead. This is where I want to be.
I’m a natural risk taker, and I’m often an early adopter of technological advances. This has served me well in both my personal life and career. My mother used to have me write math programs in BASIC, and I have HTML tattoos. After college, I’ve found several jobs and a loyal (if small) readership through establishing a great online social network with Twitter and Facebook. And while I value greatly life beyond the screen, if it’s online — it makes sense to me.
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When I learned that University of North Carolina‘s highly-ranked and world-renowned business school, Kenan-Flagler, was offering an online MBA program with identical curriculum to its campus program, I knew I’d made the right decision. Other fine schools, such as Indiana University’s Kelley Business School, are also taking this plunge. Provided that I gain acceptance to my top school choice(s), there is no need to put my offline life and career on hold in order to get an MBA. In fact, studying offline and conducting my academic life online feels as natural as the decision to better my life by furthering my education and codifying the more marketable of my skills. Online everything is both the present and the future — and I will be at the forefront of this, championing its many benefits.
Online Education Needs Champions
I chose an online degree, and, indeed, to write this two-plus year series about it, for many reasons. But the most important reason for my choice that remains continually relevant is this: I believe online education is every bit as worthy as a brick-and-mortar education, and this necessitates good examples. In order to form a functional and working online education system for any school, people need to be vocal about the benefits and difficulties of their experience. Those lucky enough to be able to work and attend school need to be interested and passionate about the way things work, and they need to be focused on helping future learners and educators create a better world. I fully intend to use my degree to make the world a better place, to be an active alumni, and to be a champion of online education throughout my career. Be the change, as Gandhi says.
Now, as I sit in an almost maddening virtual paper pile of applications, essays, recommendations, and nerves — now, I just have to get in.
Bethany Perryman is a contributor to OnlineMBA.com, who is pursuing her Masters of Business Administration online.