The rise of online and blended MBA learning

18 May 2015


May 13-15, the Association of MBAs (AMBA) gathered 250 delegates from 120 business schools in 6 continents at the AMBA Global Conference for Deans and Directors in Prague. Our common denominator: we all deliver MBA programmes holding the prestigious AMBA accreditation. Only 227 business schools worldwide do and the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg is proud to deliver the only AMBA-accredited Executive MBA programme in Sweden.

One key theme during the conference was the emergence of the online and blended MBA learning. Speakers from business schools in the US and India and a US research company shared their experiences. Here are four of my conclusions from these presentations:

  1. Technology-facilitated learning is additive, rather than disruptive: online learning expands the market and brings in new students, rather than cannibalizing the existing traditional campus based learning. However, it does challenge the traditional faculty model in imposing new and stringent requirements on all lecturers regarding course delivery and student interaction.
  2. Although fully legitimized by the likes of Harvard, Stanford and MIT, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) only constitute a subset of technology-facilitated learning. By definition, MOOC is free-for-all content. Launched in early 2010, the Jack Welch Management Institute (JWMI) at Strayer University, VA, offers 100% online, self-guided and self-paced MBA and Executive MBA programmes. As opposed to MOOC, the delivery format is Small Private Online Courses (SPOC): they target only a selected set of learners admitted to the institute. Is SPOC free of charge? No, course exams and an Executive MBA diploma at JWMI will cost you 40 KUSD. Are they successful? Absolutely, there are more than 1000 participants to date, a number growing by the day.
  3. The results were presented from a first ever quantitative study by American research company Pelegrine, measuring the level of knowledge acquired through US Master programmes delivered in traditional campus learning, online learning (SPOC format) or blended modes. Interestingly, the results show that online learners outperform traditional learners in 7 out of 10 topics measured!
  1. Just like any company, business schools need to develop and implement a proper online learning strategy: Which are our target customer segments? What is our value proposition to these segments? What are our unique differentiators? What investments and new competencies are needed to implement the strategy? Working out a strategy poses an interesting opportunity for us business schools to practice ourselves what we teach.