If you’ve made the decision to earn an MBA, it’s paramount that you choose a high-quality program, one that will provide you with a solid business education, valuable academic experience and impressive professional credentials. Consider the following factors:
The most important thing to look for is a program that is accredited by a respected business organization. These groups thoroughly examine business schools and programs to determine whether they meet academic standards. In the world of business education, there are three well-known accrediting organizations that are recognized by the U.S. Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the U.S. Department of Education or both.
The most prestigious group is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which was founded in 1916 and is the oldest business school accreditor. The association has granted AACSB accreditation to 620 member institutions in 38 countries, according to its website.
The second group, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs, has been dedicated to its mission of promoting excellence in business education since its inception in 1988. Even though ACBSP is fairly young, it accredits 529 campuses and more than 700 MBA programs, according to its website.
The International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education, formed in 1997, is the newest of the three accrediting groups. IACBE accredits business programs and colleges and universities worldwide that demonstrate characteristics of excellence, with more than 230 member educational institutions in more than 20 countries, its website says.
When it comes to an online MBA program, the importance of esteemed faculty members who are experienced, educated and innovative cannot be underestimated. Students should be wary of a program in which instructors act more as course managers doing administrative work than actually teaching. Ideally, there should be little to no difference between online and on-campus instructors when it comes to education levels, academic background and professional experience. MBA program faculty members are usually required to have a graduate-level education, professional work experience in an area relevant to business and a specialization or expertise in the course they are instructing. Additionally, online instructors have the added challenge of having to teach students using nontraditional methods, which means they have to make an extra effort to engage and motivate. Therefore, it is also extremely important that faculty members of online MBA programs are tech savvy as they will be required to use a variety of Internet tools to create lessons, direct discussions, distribute information and manage assignments. Once you find a program that you are interested in, spend some time researching the educational and professional backgrounds of faculty members. If you are unable to find enough information, don’t be afraid to contact the school and ask what credentials the online instructors possess and what training they have had to teach successfully in a virtual learning environment.
Quality online MBA programs will consist of the same, or extremely similar, curriculum as that of on-campus ones. Most programs consist of the same assignments, readings, research and activities as their on-campus counterparts. This ensures that there is little difference in education between the traditional and online student. Remember that earning an MBA online doesn’t mean less work, and sometimes may require even more academically from students in terms of activities as they are not required to be present for class time. You can check whether the quality of an online MBA program is the same as that of an on-campus one by comparing the two formats’ required courses, major projects, materials, assignments and examinations.
Considering that an online MBA program is delivered completely electronically, technology is a key aspect to consider. A high-quality program will take advantage of the most recent technological advances and utilize them to enhance the virtual learning experience. Most programs will be facilitated through a virtual classroom where students can conduct school related activities such as accessing course materials, turning in assignments, streaming instructional videos, participating in discussions, responding to lessons and keeping track of grades. It’s important that these systems have a user-friendly interface that is easy to understand and navigate, as well as an overall design that encourages interactivity, participation and communication. Many schools will let you take a look at the type of software, systems or other technological tools that are used in their online programs to help you decide whether they will provide you with an adequate learning experience.
Each year various reputable publications, websites and organizations release their lists of annual college rankings. These rankings are designed to show how academic institutions stack up against one another in terms of faculty, instruction, reputation and student mix. While each publication or organization uses its own methodology to determine ranking placement, common factors include student selectivity, quality of faculty, curriculum, methods of instruction, student satisfaction and employment outcomes. Students shouldn’t choose a school on rankings alone, but they can be a useful tool when comparing MBA programs. A higher-ranked business school may be more likely to provide you with a quality education than one that is not ranked at all. Our next section will tell you more about MBA rankings.