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MBA@UNC: Is UNC’s New Online MBA Program a Good Move?

Posted in Test Prep on July 8, 2011 by

Is UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School’s new online MBA program, MBA@UNC, forward-thinking or just misguided?

That’s the question many are asking as UNC prepares to launch MBA@UNC this fall with an inaugural class of 19 students. As the first top 20 business school to offer an online MBA program, UNC will undoubtedly be carefully watched by administrators, professors, and others.

The school is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Doug Shackelford, associate dean of the online M.B.A. program, admitted that “the concept of online education does not have a sterling image.” In general, the term “online MBA” largely calls to mind for-profit programs like the University of Phoenix or Kaplan University, schools who don’t enjoy the prestigious, storied reputation that a school like Kenan-Flagler, which was founded in 1919, hopes to maintain.

But as online and blended learning programs grow in virtually every sector, UNC is determined to work towards breaking that association and establishing a high-quality online learning environment for MBAs. The school is taking a leap of faith — but also carefully executing a number of practical steps to try to ensure that the quality of their new online program meets that of UNC’s traditional MBA.

According to a blog post from UNC, some of the perks that the 19 students that make up MBA@UNC’s inaugural class will enjoy include:

  • A combination of “synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences” — in other words, students will be able to review difficult material at their own pace, but also meet in live sessions with professors and peers (including classes, office hours, and work/study groups).
  • Two “immersion weekends” where they can network and meet in person
  • Flexibility — students will not be required to leave jobs or relocate in order to attend the program

MBA@UNC’s 19 students — who had a median GMAT score of 700 and a median GPA of 3.3 — will pay a not-insignificant $89,000 for the two-year program, compared to a $98,000 price for non-residents attending the in-person program (NC residents pay $52,000 for the in-person program). With such a steep price tag, UNC, it seems, is yet again emphasizing the fact that MBA@UNC will provide the same opportunities as its on-campus program.

What do you think? Is MBA@UNC a step in the right direction? Will other top b-schools follow its lead? Or is offering an online MBA program a misstep for a top school like UNC?