David Lefevre Question May 2015
Higher flexibility, lower opportunity costs – Will online MBAs replace the real classroom experience?
I do not believe that online MBAs will ever replace the ‘real classroom’ experience. However this does not mean that classroom-based MBAs will continue to be the gold-standard format for such programs. In the coming years, online MBAs may well offer an alternative experience that is more effective and more attractive to a significant proportion of staff and students.
More effective because technology will enable a greater degree of personalization, more frequent feedback on performance, higher quality materials, a closer integration with industry and broader contact with leading professors, all while maintaining the traditional value components of the face-to-face alternative. Online MBAs also enable a high-quality learning experience to occur in-situ enabling students to immediately test out the knowledge and skills they are acquiring. This will also putting pressure on schools to ensure that their courses are relevant and valuable.
More attractive because students (and staff) will be able to tailor their program around their existing commitments, because students (and staff) will not need to frequently travel to a physical location, because the technology-based approach will be a natural fit with emerging work practices and because the face-to-face and live sessions will be tightly focused on high-value activities. Three-hour lectures will become as attractive as three-hour meetings!
Both program formats will settle into a role within the MBA program portfolios offered by business schools. The fact that the online MBA does not offer a ‘real classroom experience’ will cease to be a significant consideration and is unlikely to prevent these programs becoming the primary offer in the portfolio. As Clayton Christensen has shown, industry incumbents frequently scoff at new technology-based entrants – at least in the short term.
Dr David Lefevre is the Program Director of Global MBA at the Imperial College Business School and Director of the School’s Educational Technology Unit. David has been working in the field of online education since 1996 and prior to joining the Imperial College Business School was lecturing in EAP and Technical Translation, largely online. David holds a PhD in instructional systems from Imperial College and the has been the recipient of a number of awards in the field of online education including a Gold award at the IMS Learning Impact awards in 2010 and an Effective Practice Award at the Sloan-C Blended Learning Conference in 2011. David is also co-founder and chairman of the Imperial College eLearning spin-out company Epigeum which publishes online courseware for universities across the World.