Prospective online MBA students usually have many questions plaguing them before starting a program. What will the program be like? What will an online classroom be like? Will future employers respect my online degree? Will my job prospects widen? Will the program be worth what I put in?
OnlineMBAToday is sitting down with Jonathon Nichols, the Director of the MBA Online Program at the David Eccles School of Business at The University of Utah, to help answer some of those important questions. The 48-credit hour, AACSB-accredited online MBA launched in the fall of 2014 and is already globally ranked for their excellence in business education. CEO Magazine ranks this program No. 7 worldwide and No. 2 in North America, and the program also currently sits at #44 for the Best Online MBA Program by US News & World Report.
OnlineMBAToday: What are some key differences between an online MBA and a residential MBA that prospective students should be aware of?
Jonathon Nichols: There are major differences between an on-campus and an online MBA, and it’s important to know what elements of your academic experience are most important to you as you consider pursuing your degree. Prospective students should think about their learning styles and the time they can commit to commuting between work, home, and school. An Online MBA program allows students the flexibility to manage their academic time around their other schedules and commitments, and provides opportunities to earn their degree at the institution they want – no matter where they are living and working. What is not different is the quality of the degree students receive at the University of Utah, as our online faculty and curriculum are the same as our on-campus programs.
OnlineMBAToday: What do you think are some advantages of an online MBA program verses a residential program?
Jonathon Nichols: A key advantage of an our MBA Online program is that it is designed to fit the demanding schedules of working professionals. Some students love their current company/position, or are being groomed for a leadership role and don’t want to leave their jobs. Some students simply don’t want to forgo two years of income. Whatever the case, an online program allows you to get the business education you need to make an impact at work, without stepping away from your career. While an evening or weekend program can accomplish this as well, an online program also offers the most flexible way to pursue an MBA. A program like the MBA Online at the University of Utah has weekly deliverables, but allows students to complete the work on their time. This is particularly beneficial for those with heavy travel schedules and outside of work commitments.
OnlineMBAToday: What makes your program unique among online MBAs?
Jonathon Nichols: Our program is unique because we focus on high quality student experience, in addition to the academic rigor of the program. Our dedicated staff works alongside prospective students through the admissions process, and continues to advise them all the way through to graduation. We admit a relatively small cohort every year compared to many other online programs, which allows us to get to know each student. When you combine that support with our world-class faculty and a cohort of professionally successful students, the result is really amazing. We get a highly engaged and motivated cohort of students that feel connected to their peers, faculty, and program staff.
OnlineMBAToday: What do you look for in successful applicants to your program?
Jonathon Nichols: While we use similar standardized measurement tools that most MBA programs use (GMAT or GRE, academic records, work experience, etc.), we recognize that it is important to take a holistic view of an applicant when determining an admissions decision. Successful applicants come from all backgrounds. A common thread between them is the desire to succeed both professionally as well as academically. Those who become successful students are those who are not afraid to put the necessary time in to truly master the material, and apply it directly to their professional lives.
OnlineMBAToday:What has been the experience of your graduates in the job market?
Jonathon Nichols: Our students are required to be employed full-time to enter the program. Since many of our students have already started down the career path they hope to continue, they are paired with our Executive Career Coaches to help them develop a personalized plan for advancing their careers. For some students, that advancement is within their current organization, and for others, it’s outside. While our first official graduating class will not graduate until Summer 2016, our students reported an 11% average salary increase just 12 months into the program.
OnlineMBAToday: Anything else you’d like to say about your program?
Jonathon Nichols: Both our students and faculty have been surprised about how engaging and interactive the program is. We kick-off our program with an on-campus residency in the first year that really helps establish networking connections within the first year. We also incorporate live weekly webinars where our students have the opportunity to engage with both their peers and faculty members. Even though it is online, our students are walking away with friendships and networking connections that one would expect in any MBA program.
Connection is Key. It is apparent that each student’s experience, and the connections that they make, are a major focus of the Eccles program. Intentional and engaging connections with peers start from the beginning of the program in the on-campus residency and they continue with their intimate class sizes and live weekly webinars. Eccles also builds a solid foundation of coaching and guidance with their staff in admissions, with program advisors, and with their Executive Career Coaches. Connections and networking is consistently one of the top things that MBA students look for when choosing a program and school, and Eccles as made considerable steps in making sure that students in their online MBA program will have just as good, or better, networking and connection opportunities as other on-campus counterparts.
Flexibility for the working professional. Every student in an online program values flexibility. Whether you are a stay-at-home parent, a part-time employee, a shift worker, or a full-time employee, flexibility has major benefits. The Eccles School of Business has specifically designed their program to fit the demanding schedules of working professionals, to the point that their students are required to be employed full-time to enter the program. This means that Eccles knows that their students have very limited time in their day-to-day schedule and have built the courses to fit appropriately, and they are made accessible to professionals who do not live or work in the area. They also understand that their students do not want to waste their time on things that cannot be implemented in their current workplace, but students want to actively and practically solve problems that they are dealing with on a day-to-day basis so they can implement solutions immediately.