As a student begins to research online MBA programs, their mind is filled with many questions. What will the online experience entail? Will I receive the same education as a residential student? Will the program be worth the time, money and effort I put into it? Will future employers respect my online degree? Will my job prospects widen?
Online MBA Today is sitting down with Dr. Jun Zhao, Dean of the College of Business at Governors State University, to help answer some of these important questions. Located in the heart of Chicago, Illinois' Southland, Governors State University is home to more than 5,500 undergraduate and graduate students. Having 64 degree and 24 certificate programs preparing students for success in business, industry, healthcare, the arts' and education, GSU is committed to providing higher education opportunities. It is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association and is a proud member of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). The College of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which is a mark of excellence achieved by fewer than 5% of business schools worldwide. It's 100% online MBA program offers five specialization options: Business Analytics, Finance, Leadership, Supply Chain Management, and Custom. GSU's Online MBA program has ranked in Online MBA Today's Top 100 Most Affordable Online MBA Ranking, Top 50 Best Value Online MBA Ranking, and Top 35 Online MBA Programs in Supply Chain Management Ranking.
Online MBA Today: What are some key differences between an online MBA and a residential MBA that prospective students should be aware of?
Dr. Jun Zhao: One key difference between an online MBA and a residential MBA is the fact that students and faculty do not have the regular face-to-face interaction which is common in a residential or on-ground program. Students in an online program often do not have the opportunity to meet their peers in a regular classroom setting and collaborate that way. However, today's technology provided tools to create an active learning environment in online courses, that enable faculty to "duplicate" the interactive environment and collaborative atmosphere students expect for their online programs. Our faculty utilize asynchronous learning designs such as discussion board, recorded mini-lectures, videos, to provide flexibility for students, and also synchronous tools such as chat room discussions (for both office hours and study group sessions), so the sense of learning community is not lost in the online environment.
Prospective students should be aware of the need of self-discipline and ready to take advantage of the resources their professors make available in these courses. They need to be actively engaged in the learning process in order to make the most out of their MBA career.
Online MBA Today: What do you think are some advantages of an online MBA program versus a residential program?
Dr. Jun Zhao: The biggest advantage of an online MBA program versus a residential program is the flexibility it offers to students. Today's MBA students have very busy lives, many are working professionals looking to advance their career with the knowledge and skills they gain from a high quality program. They might also have other family obligations which makes attending on-campus classes every week difficult. The flexibility provided by the online program can help them balance their studies and work/life obligations.
Online MBA Today: What makes your program unique among online MBAs?
Dr. Jun Zhao: All courses in our AACSB accredited online MBA program (in both general management and supply chain management) are taught by full time faculty who are experts in their disciplines and are active scholars who conduct cutting-edge research and publish in high quality journals. All instructors in this program have been through rigorous training to learn online teaching techniques and pedagogy, and went through a peer review process before being offered online.
Starting Fall 2017, we also offer two course series in Professional Development to incoming MBA students. These seminars are facilitated by the MBA coordinator, and develop soft skills that help students develop better professional network, personal branding, manage teams, deal with conflicts, and so on. The sessions' speakers are industry leaders who have rich experience and real world perspectives on these topics and students in the online and on-ground programs participate via video conference facilities and interact with these speakers in real time.
All students (whether online or on-ground) work with our graduate advisor, who monitors their academic progress closely, and provide guidance when needed to ensure successful degree completion.
Online MBA Today: What do you look for in successful applicants to your program?
Dr. Jun Zhao: We look for a good balance between academic preparedness and a drive to succeed in the changing business world. Our typical students are in their late 20s or early 30s, though we also have many returning adult students who have had a successful career and are ready for more challenges in managerial positions. We look for individuals who are disciplined and ready for the challenges in our rigorous program, and those who are willing to share their knowledge with their peers.
We welcome applicants who have non-business undergraduate majors as well as business majors. For individuals who do not have business undergraduate degree, we offer three foundation courses that will help them gain foundational knowledge in accounting, economics, and statistics.
Online MBA Today: What has been the experience of your graduates in the job market?
Dr. Jun Zhao: Our graduates from the online MBA program have had great success in the job market. Students in our Online MBA in Supply Chain Management were hired by major logistics companies including JB Hunt, XPO Logistics, as well as manufacturing firms such as Luchs Lubricants, DOT Foods, and others. We work closely with our career services office to create internship opportunities for our students, and utilize our partnerships with industry to help students find positions that will utilize their knowledge and skills.
Online MBA Today: Anything else you'd like to say about your program?
Dr. Jun Zhao: Our Online MBA requires 24 hours of core courses which provide broad base knowledge in business functions (Accounting, Finance, Operations Management, Marketing, MIS, etc.), three specialization courses, and a capstone. For the supply chain MBA, students are required to take three specialization courses in Global Supply Chain, Warehouse Management, and Inventory Control. Students in the general management MBA have the flexibility to choose any three specialization courses from an approved list.
BIG TAKE AWAYS:
Learning Community: Yes, the online experience is a great opportunity for students to be able to earn an MBA while working full time, or traveling, or raising a family. It provides flexibility for people in all kinds of different phases of life to not have to stop everything they are doing to attend classes for years to earn their MBA. But in some programs, the online experience can lack in interaction and feeling like a supportive community. It can hinder the student from feeling like part of a team, missing out on the face to face interaction and all the ways you can learn from that. What GSU provides is the opposite. Using today's technology, they have arranged, created, worked very hard to provide a learning community for the online student. Combined with the flexibility that comes with recorded lectures, videos and access to discussion boards, the professors also provide an active and interactive learning environment using chat rooms and other tools. This is important in providing a strong, supportive community for the online student.
Expert Faculty: While searching for an online MBA program, most people want to know that the person teaching, guiding, and walking alongside them is highly qualified and can provide the best education and tools to succeed in the business world. GSU has filled their faculty positions with experts and active scholars who publish their work in high quality journals and also conduct cutting-edge research. They fully train the faculty to also know specific online teaching techniques. This gives the student confidence to know they are being taught by the best of the best.