College of Business launches online-based MBA program

By Maggie Sullivan

The University’s vision for the College of Business didn’t include leading online education when it was established 100 years ago; however, the college could become the first institution to launch a Massive Open Online Course, MOOC, based MBA program. The Academic Senate approved a proposal for the new program, iMBA, and the Board of Trustees will vote on it Thursday.

The program, which would partner with the online learning platform Coursera, uses the capability of MOOCs to offer an MBA program to people all over the world, at less cost.

“Exposure to thousands of learners from around the world will give students a tremendous advantage,” said Dean of Business Larry DeBrock. “This program will allow a worldwide audience to showcase the excellence of our faculty and the quality of our program.”

iMBA courses will include two parts; a MOOC, which anyone can enroll in for free, and the opportunity to pay to take the course for certification, or for graduate credit, at a higher price.

“This program is designed for a different group of learners,” DeBrock said. “This is for students off campus, so they do not have to quit their jobs or move to another city to get the education offered by the University.”

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iMBA redefines what a business school subject is; rather than taking offline content and formatting it for an online class, iMBA blends content from multiple platforms and subject areas. If approved, students will be able to begin the program by enrolling in digital marketing or finance/operations, in late May.

“We are not only bringing different parts of the business school together in this way, but different parts of the university as well,” said Mary Kay Dailey, executive director of communications in the College of Business. “This makes for new types of richer learning experiences.”

One feature that sets iMBA apart from its online MBA counterparts is the price, she said. iMBA costs about 1/3 of typical online MBA programs at comparable institutions. Dailey said iMBA seeks to advance the mission of land grant universities by offering a program to students who have high-potential business talent who have been priced out of other MBA programs.

“The College of Business turns 100 this year, and this is our gift to the state, the country, and the world,” Dailey said.

iMBA offers what Dailey calls course “stackability.” This means a student can enter the program at any time, enroll in any subject and eventually build a full iMBA. Each course is fully self-contained, Dailey said, which eliminates the need for a core curriculum of sequences and prerequisites.

iMBA also has benefits for students on campus pursuing a traditional MBA, Dailey said. Students can take the MOOC-based online course for regular academic credit, which can be applied to a graduate degree at the University. Students at other institutions could also take the University’s iMBA courses for transfer credits.

Matt Hill, vice president external, said at the Academic Senate meeting Monday, current on-campus MBA students are concerned the iMBA program could devalue their program.

“One thing we will tell you is there are 180 online MBA programs in the world right now,” said Raj Echambadi, associate dean of outreach and engagement in the College of Business. “If you look at our successful peers, they have all done well with respect to their face-to-face programs as well.”

However, Dailey said this approach to an MBA has not yet been taken by any other institution.

“We think it holds great promise for students here on campus,” she said, “Enriching their learning, adding options, and expanding their alumni network.”

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