The online education movement keeps picking up steam. This past week, the class profile for the inaugural cohort of the MBA@Syracuse program at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management was announced. More than 100 students have enrolled in the January program—larger than any class of MBA students in Whitman’s history. Days after proclaiming online business education leadership with that successful launch, 2U, Inc., the cloud-based platform behind MBA@Syracuse and Kenan-Flagler’s MBA@UNC, announced the American University Kogod School of Business will start its own 2U degree and call it the MBA@American.
But why stop for just one degree when you can offer two? Kogod will also be offering a digital version of their MS in analytics, appropriately dubbed Analytics@American. Both programs, which still need official approval from university officials, are scheduled to begin in October 2015. The MBA@American will require students to complete 48 credit hours and the Analytics@American requires 33 completed credit hours. Students in both programs will be required to participate in two in-person immersive courses which will either be on American’s campus or in another domestic or international capital city, according to Kogod dean Erran Carmel, and assistant dean for digital initiatives and new programs Jill Klein.
“Moving into the online space is not a difficult decision,” Carmel says. “It is a necessity now. About five years ago it might have been a question mark but now it’s clear – as a competitive business school, we have to be in the online space.”
ONLINE MBAs FLYING OFF THE SHELVES
Many online business degree programs continue to flourish. U.S. News & World Report has now ranked online business degree programs for three years in a row. This year, the MBA@UNC shared the top spot with Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business (the undisputed No. 1 school in 2014) and Temple University’s Fox School. Kenan-Flagler’s program has ballooned to enrolling 634 students from 47 states and 35 countries.
Carmel says a broad market of students is driving online degree growth. More and more students want access to top shelf business education but also don’t want to move or rearrange an established life. The average age of Kenan-Flagler’s most recent class was 33. At Syracuse it’s 35. Both are not significantly older than the average age of 28 of traditional full-time MBA students, but the differences in life experience and life status from 28 to 35 is often significant. More people have families and are settled. The couch degree is attractive.
A TIGHT-KNIT CREW
Perhaps the most unique aspect to Kogod’s new programming is the opportunity for students to earn both degrees. Students will be admitted on a quarterly basis, and starting with the third admitted cohort, the MBA could be completed in one year. Klein says the decision to offer an online analytics degree was also a no-brainer of sorts.
“Frankly, when we think about online, arguably one of the most exciting places is how we wring and manage data in decision making,” Klein says. “Managers are going to have to make data driven decisions and business schools are beginning to house these types of programs.”
Both Klein and Carmel say the opportunity to earn an analytics degree coupled with Kogod’s culture of “intimacy and high touch” are what should make applicants take notice. “The classrooms and weekly sessions with small staff is something we are excited to extend,” Klein says. “That tight-knit community is a big part of who we are at Kogod.”
As with the MBA degree, students in the analytics program are required to complete two in-person immersions. Details are still being worked out but the analytics immersions will most likely involve a real-life business problem that will be solved by crunching big data. The recent growth of 2U, which announced five program launches in 2015, proves the online education market is alive and more than well. The market is there and schools are increasingly taking notice. Watch out, Internet. The online MBAs are coming.