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How Online Education Works

With multiple ways to tailor a program, your online educational experience will be different at every school. When you’re considering which programs to apply to, it’s important to keep in mind what your specific learning needs are. An online MBA should automatically have certain resources and guidelines available to students, but it’s up to you to determine the quality of and ease of access to what you need. Here’s a look at how online education works so you can see what’s best for you.

The Online Format

There are a number of ways an online MBA program can be built. First, a program will decide what it expects of its students. It could be only 75 percent online or it could require students to have a certain type of experience before enrolling. Let’s break down the types of online programs that are available.

Types of Programs


Most online MBA programs are 100 percent online. This means you can study from anywhere in the world in the comfort of your own home.


These programs combine the best of both worlds—students get to experience the campus environment while doing the majority of their coursework on their own schedule. Low residency programs typically require a period of concentrated campus time (i.e. one week per term). Hybrid programs generally meet on campus more frequently, commonly one weekend per month or alternate Saturdays.


An Executive MBA program is for those who already have work experience. Commonly, these programs require at least five years of business savvy.


An Accelerated MBA program is for the eager student who can earn the degree in as few as 12 months, depending on the school. With prior college of transfer credits, or work experience, you can take this fast track if it’s available.


Course Content Access

In addition to the way the program is structured, each online MBA will have its own online learning platform. This platform can really make a program stand out from the rest. A quality program will have a variety of lecture formats as well as easy communication tools that allow you to get in contact with your professors and classmates.

When you log into your online portal, you will have your schedule, course names and professors outlined for you. You can easily access course syllabi, lectures, assignments and communication tools. Depending on the program, your course will be taught using:

  • MP3 audio lectures
  • MP4 audio and video lectures
  • Streaming video lectures

It’s important to take into account which of these are available in case you are an auditory or visual learner.

Classroom Communication

A common misconception about online learning is there is no peer or professor interaction, just lectures and assignments. However, most online MBA programs will have plenty of tools and platforms for its students to discuss what they’ve learned and to ask questions. When you’re researching schools, make sure to properly browse their online learning web page to see what they’re offering. Some different online interaction capabilities include:

Online messenger and chat rooms

Discussion forums


Shared virtual whiteboards

Some online programs go the extra mile and offer student-professor phone communication or web conferencing.


online-examsThe course outcomes and expectations of online MBAs are the same as on-campus MBAs. When it comes to exam types, your understanding of the materials will be tested in an equivalent way, such as multiple choice, short answer, essay or a recorded response. Schools typically note on their website what their testing expectations are, though each course may differ. Some programs will require you to take exams in a dedicated testing center or on campus, while others will have you take them online. There are several online exam options, most of them ensuring online students have the same restrictions as students taking tests in the classroom. Be prepared for web-proctored exams that are timed or designed to prevent students from leaving the testing screen and surfing the Internet for answers.

Benefits of Distance Learning

While you may not necessarily be in a physical classroom, depending on the program you are enrolled in, earning an online MBA has advantages over the traditional on-campus version.

Learn at your own pace

With 24/7 access to lectures and materials, you can start and stop audio and video files when you want and return when you are ready. This also means you can replay lectures as many times as you need until you feel like you understand the material.

Maintain your lifestyle

Do you have a full-time job or a family to take care of? The online option means you can tend to your commitments and earn your degree at the same time without giving anything up. Whether early in the morning before work or after dinner, you choose when you focus on your coursework.

Save money

Distance education means you can learn from anywhere. By having the majority of your education take place online, you’ll avoid transportation, parking, housing and other costs associated with taking all of your classes on campus.

Get your questions answered

When your professors set aside time for student emails, you’ll undoubtedly get proper attention to your questions. You’ll also benefit from having more time to think about what you want to ask.

Part-Time Online MBA Degrees

Don’t worry if you feel like committing to a full-time MBA program is not for you. Plenty of schools offer part-time online MBA degree options. Leading a professional and busy family-oriented life can leave little time for anything else, so this slower pace may be an option that’s right for you.

Core Coursework

core-courseworkThe online MBA degree will have many of the same core courses no matter which school is providing the education. An MBA is designed to provide challenging coursework to prepare students for the rigorous field of business and leadership. Whether you’ve had two or 12 years in the business world, an MBA should equip you to make high-level, quick decisions, guide a team and carry on a company vision. In order to do that, you’ll need a base knowledge of all the facets of business. Online programs will dedicate courses to the main skills needed for success, teaching them in a way where theory translates into real-world application. With a traditional MBA or a specialized MBA, you will study key courses such as:

  • Financial Accounting: Understand the basics of financial accounting that include analyzing financial documents, understanding mergers and financial transactions, and interpreting accounting standards.
  • Managerial Accounting: This type of course focuses on leadership roles for those who are to manage a company’s accounts. You’ll understand managerial incentives, cost behavior, cash flow statements, relevant costs for internal decision making, manufacturing and service operations, and how to get into general consulting.
  • Cost Accounting: You will use statistical tools, data, decision models, cost-volume-profit analysis and budgeting to understand proper cost management for a business.
  • Forensic Accounting: Understand auditing standards, professional ethics, legal liability and fraud to determine pursuing litigation. Classes will also cover quantifying damages.
  • Tax Accounting: The goal of this part of accounting is to understand how taxes affect business decisions, especially when it comes to investments, compensation and regulated industries. Learn the basics of federal, state and local taxes, and explore how federal income tax laws can shape partnerships and corporations.
  • Financial Analysis and Reporting: Learn more financial statement analysis by looking at methods for corporate financial reporting and disclosure, as well as asset evaluation and determining income.
  • Corporate Finance: This course will delve into the financial planning and risk management associated with investments, mergers and acquisitions. The concepts behind corporate finance are key for those headed for a chief financial officer role.
  • Risk Management: Risk management is a core part of understanding profit margins and how to protect companies from experiencing losses. Learn how to identify and evaluate the risks involved in daily corporate activities.
  • Organizational Leadership and Strategic Planning: This psychological aspect of business is crucial for future leaders and management. Learn how to cultivate diversity, lead a team, allocate responsibilities and see a company’s mission and values through.
  • Supply Chain Management: The logistics behind a company’s production is incredibly important, and in this class, you will learn management of inventory and quality control. This is key for general managers and those who deal with customers.
  • Operations and Project Management: This covers the planning, management, operations and execution of production, services and all projects a company works on. Project management focuses more on the logistics and management of each individual project.
  • Human Capital Management: A human resources management course, this will cover the training and development of company personnel.
  • Marketing Management: Not only will you cover the basics of marketing, you will also learn how to promote your product and how to attract consumers. Key concepts include pricing and distribution of products and services.
  • Market Research and Analysis: This data-driven part of business allows students to tackle marketing problems and come up with solutions or understand the implications of business practices on the bottom line.
  • Product Management: Ranging from inception to production, product management teaches students how to take the ideas they’ve conceived to testing stages. You’ll cover design, test marketing and launch.
Global Business
  • International Business Strategy: This business sector covers the same concepts as the MBA as a whole but on a global scale. Learn about finance, economics, business culture and technology across the globe.
  • Global Leadership: Learn how to be a leader in any context or country with cross-cultural communication and understanding. This is ideal for those looking to lead international teams.
  • Global Economics: Understand the marketing and economics of different countries and how people can do business across cultures. This is effective for knocking down barriers between countries that operate in different business and political climates.
General Courses
  • Entrepreneurship: If you’re looking to start your own business, having a solid foundation in entrepreneurship is essential. Here, you will learn about drafting business plans and making innovations marketable.
  • Business Ethics: A heavy case study course, business ethics teaches students how to see through the values and missions of a company while building new ethical practices.
  • Human Resources: A company is only as successful as those who work for it. Human resources strategies guide business professionals in how to find the best employees, train them and create a supportive culture that allows them to flourish. This also plays on the human capital management course to build a productive, motivated staff.

The online MBA degree option covers these core concepts and more. Most schools have degree options that allow you to specialize in a certain area of business, adding to your resume and likelihood to be hired. Pursuing your degree online also gives you the added bonus of applying what you learn right away if you’re working while you study, and it may give you more time to decide which specialization you would like to pursue.


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