A Business Technology Place

Auburn Distance MBA: Defining characteristics for the institution

I recently finished a MBA from Auburn University as a ‘distance’ or ‘outreach’ student.  While I was reflecting on my experience, my thoughts centered around three main points of thought:

  1. What are the primary advantages and disadvantages of the distance MBA program for a student?
  2. What are the defining program characteristics of the distance MBA program for the institution?
  3. What does distance education mean for the future of academia?

This is the second of a three-part blog to record my thoughts on these questions. The first post about the Auburn distance MBA program focused on reaching out to customers.

Q2. What are the defining program characteristics of the distance MBA program for the institution?

Institutions setting up or running a distance education program must solve logistical tasks associated with the day-to-day operations of the program.  Some of the major tasks include:
  1. Development of  infrastructure for taping lectures. Possibilities include DVDs, streaming video, and satellite campus rooms.
  2. Development of a process  for sending and receiving assignments to be graded. How long will distance students have to return work?  Who will receive and grade the work?
  3. Create a system to allow distance students to participate in class room discussions.
  4. Design coursework and assignments so that they can be assigned to both distance and on-campus students.
Technology is really not a barrier for any of these operational elements.  The challenge is  in defining an efficient process that allows the education to be foremost in the minds of the students and professors. If the process is not efficient or doesn’t work then it takes the attention away from the education and the institution is not accomplishing its goals.
Once the distance education program logistics are set, the institution has a unique program offering.  The program characteristics give the institution new possibilities and challenges. Consider the following characteristics  for distance education:
  1. Creates opportunity to make the  institution name, or the brand, recognizable in a broader geographic area. More name recognition increases the potential base of prospective students.
  2. Creates opportunity to reach a broader and more diverse student audience. Expanding the reach of the institution name can help with finding prospective students for both distance and on-campus formats.
  3. Increases competition beyond the institutions immediate boundaries. Searching for distance students will increase the number of competitors for the institution by nature of expanding its marketing boundaries.
  4. Class room size is not constrained by physical limitations. The limiting factors will be determined by logistical processes to delivery classroom lectures and coursework to students.
  5. Marketing of the program will require a different strategy. Institutions should consider tools and resources used by online professionals.  If prospective students are comfortable with distance education they are most likely comfortable with standard online tools for research.  Elements to consider are search-engine optimization, video examples of sessions, video testimonials, online reviews and student comments,  documentation of program logistics, and method for remote question & answer.

More institutions are offering distance programs.  Business Week lists distance programs in their review and rankings.  http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/rankings

With the advancement of technology clearing the way for distribution of content, I expect more schools to start competing in this space in the future.  I’ll discuss what I think about the future implications of online education in part 3 of this series.

  • chetwilganowski

    Hi Bob,

    I was just accepted into the Auburn MBA Program – Distance option and I would like to ask you a few questions about it if possible.

    1. Is the Financial Analysis course more like a complete financial management for businesses or is it more related to analyzing projects and businesses for financial market purposes.

    2. In your opinion would it be feasible to take 3 courses during a fall semester and work full time?

    3. Which courses do you feel were the best taught and which subject do you feel the MBA program excels at the greatest.

    4. Are the lectures in a format that I can save to a thumb drive and take to work? I work at a financial institution and they have restricted the use of streaming video.

    5. Does the diploma or transcript specifically note or imply that the classes were taken via the distance option?

    I thank you in advance for any input that you can give me concerning the above topics and other things that you feel would have made your experience better.

    Thanks,

    Chet

  • Chet, While I went through there was an option for online streaming video or a DVD that was mailed. If you don't have high speed Internet access from home, then you can opt for the DVD via mail. That will put you about one week behind the students on campus, but the instructors factor that time into the due date for assignments.

  • Chet,

    While I went through you had an option for online streaming video or a DVD that was mailed. If you don’t have high speed Internet access at home, you’ll need to opt for the DVD by mail option.

    Bob

  • Chet, While I went through there was an option for online streaming video or a DVD that was mailed. If you don't have high speed Internet access from home, then you can opt for the DVD via mail. That will put you about one week behind the students on campus, but the instructors factor that time into the due date for assignments.

  • chet

    Thank you for your feedback.. I spoke with the MBA office and they gave me all the answers that I needed. I was also pleased to find out that they offer the flexibility to take classes on campus and finish the degree out in the field if a job offer is extended to you. That is a huge plus.

    Thanks,

    Chet