Prospective online MBA students have many questions before starting a program. What will the MBA program be like? What will an online classroom be like? Will future employers respect my degree and online experience? Will my job prospects expand? Will the program be worth my time, effort, and money?
Online MBA Today is sitting down with Stacey Dorang Peeler, the Managing Director of the Online MBA at the Penn State Smeal College of Business, to help answer some of those important questions. The Penn State World Campus online MBA has recently announced a newly revamped program. The former general online MBA is now being led by the prestigious Smeal College of Business, in partnership with the other Penn State Business Schools, with the added program customization of seven concentration tracks: Accounting Foundations, Advanced Accounting, Business Analytics, Finance, General Management, Project Management, and Supply Chain Management. This addition will allow students to tailor their program to focus on their individual career interests and goals.
Online MBA Today: What are some key differences between an online MBA and a residential MBA that prospective students should be aware of?
Stacey Dorang Peeler: In an online program, most students will continue to work while they are taking classes. It will be very important that all team members communicate openly and regularly when scheduling collaborative work so deadlines are met. Because students may be spread across the country, or even the globe, planning ahead is paramount. In addition, while someone doesn't have to be a "master of technology" to succeed in an online program, it will be essential that an online learner is comfortable with online communication tools and the program's learning management system. Reputable programs will provide resources and training to ensure their students have support getting up to speed with specific tools that will be required during their MBA study. Because any space could be your workspace, and any time could be your work time in an online environment, it is important to be organized and self-disciplined so that assignments get completed. More flexibility and less structure doesn't mean less academic rigor just because a program is delivered virtually.
Online MBA Today: What do you think are some advantages of an online MBA program verses a residential program?
Stacey Dorang Peeler: An online program can allow you to continue to work and "earn while you learn." This can also allow working professionals to immediately apply concepts they are learning in class in the course of their current job duties. Learning while working can also help keep cost of education down and boost ROI. In addition, pursuing a degree online can eliminate re-location and all of the costs that might come with it for the student and/or his/her family. Online learning is very flexible, and while it is just as rigorous as resident instruction, the online student retains a tremendous amount of control over when, how and where they complete their coursework. If you continue to work, some employers may also help to support the cost of continued education for their employees.
Online MBA Today: What makes your program unique among online MBAs?
Stacey Dorang Peeler: In addition to our Orientation Residency, which connects our students to each other, their faculty and campus at the start of the program, our ICE model of learning—Integration, Collaboration and Engagement—truly sets us apart. It is essential to the core of our program and exemplifies the interactive and participative spirit of the Penn State Online MBA experience.
Online MBA Today: What do you look for in successful applicants to your program?
Stacey Dorang Peeler: When evaluating applicants, we want to see people who can provide evidence that they can be academically successful in a rigorous master's program, which is heavily team-based. We also look at career path and future goals, and also how they align with the experience we can offer a student. A good match is important for the success of the program and most importantly the student. Of course, of paramount importance, there needs to be demonstrated ability to work in a collaborative team environment. Our successful applicants, and later successful students, must be motivated and possess the ability and drive to stay engaged in the online environment throughout their course of study.
Online MBA Today: What has been the experience of your graduates in the job market?
Stacey Dorang Peeler: As our program is re-launching in fall 2017, we don't have specific statistics yet for our graduates. We do, however, expect the majority of our students to be working full-time throughout the program. For those who do wish to seek employment, however, we have a fantastic portfolio of customized career services options to assist them with their search.
Online MBA Today: Anything else you'd like to say about your program?
Stacey Dorang Peeler: Our concentrations and the flexibility of our model are positioned to give you the best experience available to help you meet the career goals that are specific and unique to you. We understand that everyone's circumstances are different, and we look forward to working with you to accommodate your academic and professional needs throughout your time with us!
Flexibility and Control: An Online MBA offers a format with the most flexibility, allowing students to fully control their schedule and time. This format can be optimal for students who work full-time or have many personal and professional commitments. This does require discipline and organization, but some students can really thrive in a format with this high flexibility. More flexibility and less structure does not mean less academic rigor. Remember, the format is more flexible, but the education within the Smeal College of Business has met the highest business standards from around the world.
High ROI: An online program allows students to "earn while you learn." This ability of boosting your resume and adding to your knowledge and skills is coupled with minimal commute expenses as well. All of this adds to a student's return on investment.
Combination of new and old: Penn State's World Campus has been offering an online MBA program for the past 14 years. The World Campus is known for its excellence in online programs. The online MBA has been taught in partnership with all the excellent business schools from Penn State, including the Smeal College of Business, Black School of Business, Penn State Behrend, Penn State Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies, and Penn State Harrisburg School of Business Administration. Also, their excellent curriculum has been, and is fully accredited by AACSB-International, showing their prestige among the top business schools from around the world. All of these attributes have set a solid foundation for this MBA. This new program re-launch, led by the Smeal College of Business, propels the online MBA in new and exciting ways. This expansion in curriculum gives even more depth to this program and it will be exiting to see the MBA bloom in years to come.