How Do Students Interact in an Online MBA?

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A recent study showed that 40% of Fortune 500 companies utilize e-learning frequently and extensively. Being comfortable interacting online through an Online MBA program can serve graduates well as they enter the business world. In fact, 90% of corporations have switched to online learning since 1995. For Online MBAs, the amount of personal connection and interaction with peers and professors will vary significantly from program to program. The following article discusses several factors affecting how much students interact in an Online MBA. 

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous

online course work

Online MBAs are generally offered in two formats, synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous programs typically follow a stricter schedule and include at least one virtual meeting per week. Some programs choose to do one more extended class per week, while others do two shorter sessions. There is an assigned meeting time with synchronous options, and students either participate in lectures through Zoom or live-streamed class sessions. 

Asynchronous Online MBAs offer the most flexibility, but with this method, the primary way students interact with peers and professors happens through discussion boards and email. Those who work or have family commitments will want to weigh their time availability to see which format fits their goals and lifestyle best. 

Hybrid vs. Fully Online

If you are interested in more personal interaction in your Online MBA experience, hybrid or blended options may be right for you. Hybrid MBAs offer the convenience of turning in assignments at your own pace but still include in-person components where students can build genuine relationships as they work towards their degrees. The idea is that the on-campus meetings and the online elements will strengthen the level of connection and interaction with peers and professors. Fully online degrees still offer connection points, but meeting face to face does have its advantages. 

One of the few downsides to hybrid OMBA’s is that it limits school options based on location and willingness to move or commute to campus. Degrees that are 100% online can be completed anywhere, and most offer a higher level of flexibility than hybrid programs. Both options offer several benefits. It is, however, important to review your priorities and decide which format would provide an ideal situation for your learning style. 

Residency Weekends and International Experiences

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While hybrid programs generally have set weekly or monthly campus visits, many Online MBAs include residency weekends or international experiences. With this format, students complete course work and lectures virtually but come together once or twice throughout the program to meet in person, network, and learn from one another. 

International experiences offer an amazing opportunity for students to explore new places and cultures along with their professors and peers. For OMBA students, these trips generally do not last more than a week and are potentially optional, depending on the program. Online MBAs that include residency weekends or international experiences offer a way to have in-person interactions without the commitment of weekly class sessions. 

Cohorts

One of the things that can greatly impact the level of personal interaction during an Online MBA is participating in a cohort-style program. Cohorts allow students to begin and end their degrees as a group. Most cohort-style OMBA’s will have one start date per year to keep everyone on the same schedule. 

There can be multiple start dates per year in traditional online programs, with each class having a completely different set of students. But, if you are looking to build strong connections, a cohort-style program is the best option. However, you must be able to commit to a predetermined schedule because having all participants progress at the same rate is one of the foundations of this method. 

Are There Clubs or Student Organizations for Online MBA Students?

Clubs and student organizations for online students do exist, but they are less common for fully online programs. Hybrid programs make participating in clubs and activities easier because students are already on campus each week. In most cases, online students do have access to on-campus activities, clubs, and career services. However, it can be tricky to utilize if the school you choose for your online degree is not nearby. Getting involved is possible for online students, but it may not be practical for those who are full-distance learners. 

Do Online MBAs Include Group Projects?

The answer depends on the foundational beliefs of each OMBA program. In general, most Online MBA curriculums do involve collaborative projects at some point throughout the degree. Communication, leadership, and team building are central ideas that must be practiced throughout an MBA program to provide the most educational experience. But the level and type of group work will vary from program to program. Fully online degrees may have students collaborate through email, discussion boards, and Zoom meetings. In contrast, hybrid MBA’s may include more in-person collaborations during or outside of class.

How Do I Stay In Contact With Professors During An OMBA?

online mba interview

One of the biggest questions for prospective students is how students interact with professors in an online MBA. Even for 100% online MBA programs, most instructors have set office hours where they can meet with students via Zoom. If not, students can always email professors or set up a time for phone calls or virtual meetings. Hybrid students will have more interaction with professors for the most part simply because they will attend scheduled classes on campus. Many asynchronous programs can also offer this same level of contact without the commute. 

Action Plans

Many students worry that if they choose to earn their MBA online, they will miss out on networking, connecting with peers, and building relationships with professors. But this simply does not have to be the case. Based on the key points we discussed in this article, finding an OMBA with the amount of interaction you desire is possible. 

Here are some steps to take in finding the right Online MBA experience:

  • Figure out whether you need a hybrid format with more opportunities for in-person interaction OR if you can successfully navigate a 100% OMBA. 
  • When researching business schools and specific Online MBAs, see what level of interaction they offer.
  • Check whether programs are asynchronous or synchronous, cohort-based or not, and offer student organizations for Online MBA students. 
  • Once you’re in the program, utilize every opportunity and resource to communicate with your professors and classmates. 

It is important to note that the formats with the most connection points often require a more strict scheduling commitment. Having the right tools and mindset is also vitally important to successfully interacting with peers during an Online MBA. For more tips on how to succeed in an OMBA, check out this article!