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:
- What are the primary advantages and disadvantages of the distance MBA program for a student?
- What are the defining program characteristics of the distance MBA program for the institution?
- What does distance education mean for the future of academia?
Q2. What are the defining program characteristics of the distance MBA program for the institution?
- Development of infrastructure for taping lectures. Possibilities include DVDs, streaming video, and satellite campus rooms.
- 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?
- Create a system to allow distance students to participate in class room discussions.
- Design coursework and assignments so that they can be assigned to both distance and on-campus students.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.