The demand for online MBAs is increasing. The Graduate Management Admissions Council reported a 7% increase in demand last year from 2015. Two-thirds (63%) of institutions offering online MBA programmes were expected to increase their class size last year and three new online MBAs were introduced worldwide.

The growth in online MBAs brings its own brand of MBA student that breaks the mould. “Having a really global professional existence doesn’t allow you to commit to any reasonable time frames,” Ed Perryman, Global Online MBA alumnus at Imperial says, “I travelled a great deal with work and I knew that I would miss lectures if I undertook a weekend or part-time MBA programme. What I needed was to be able to learn on the go, fitting it around my professional life.”

Online MBAs from world-leading business schools have become a desirable qualification in their own right for ambitious professionals. Here, we give 5 reasons why demand is increasing for MBAs that offer easily accessible and flexible quality education that isn’t limited by location.

  1. It’s the very definition of flexible.

An online MBA attracts students for whom the traditional on campus experience wouldn’t work. Many of these students have work or family commitments that cannot be sacrificed for 1-2 years. Or they travel for work, run businesses or hold senior leadership positions that make a regular schedule impossible to commit to.

Students on the Global Online MBA attend a two week induction at the beginning of the programme and complete their Capstone Project halfway through the programme, both on Imperial’s campus in South Kensington. Most of the programme is studied online using our bespoke e-learning platform The Hub which students can access anywhere, anytime.

Talia Hussain, Global Online MBA student, class of 2016.

Talia Hussain, founder of Ramnation, procrastinated the MBA for “quite a while” until she found an online MBA programme at Imperial that meant she didn’t have to take a year out.

“For me,” she says, “putting my business on hold didn’t seem like an opportunity. I needed the flexibility to work and study at the same time without sacrificing on earnings.”

Andy Durban, Student Recruitment Manager at Imperial College Business School, adds, “Over the years that I’ve been talking to prospective MBA candidates across the world, I’ve noticed a definite shift in the programmes they are looking for.

“Whilst there will always be a place for traditional face-to-face programmes, modern professionals are increasingly looking for something that allows them to work towards a prestigious, recognised qualification at a time and a place that suits them, and crucially, one that doesn’t remove them from their busy work and family lives.”

Talia continues, “Being able to study flexibly as it suited me was incredibly attractive. Set dates and times don’t always fit the schedule of someone who doesn’t have the conventional nine to five day, and has to travel globally for conferences and meetings as part of running their business.”

  1. It has real business application, immediately                  

Like any MBA format, an online MBA is more than an academic exercise. Dr Paolo Taticchi, Programme Director of the Global Online MBA at Imperial, says, “An online MBA is a catalyst for leadership transformation, supporting students’ quest for peak effectiveness, becoming better leaders of self, others and their organisations.”

Online MBA students can immediately apply what they learn to their work contexts. Ed Perryman was promoted to Group Sales and Marketing Director at a leading provider of private education whilst studying the Global Online MBA at Imperial.

He says, “In this role I work closely with the CEO and the Finance Director on our broader strategy. The progression of my role meant that I now have more interaction with the board and private equity owners. Coming from an exclusively marketing background, I have learnt a broader level of financial and other business acumen on the Global Online MBA that gives me more credibility in the boardroom.”

Asmar Atif, Global Online MBA Student Leader.

Many online MBA programmes have their equivalent of Imperial’s Personal Leadership Journey (PLJ) module to help students develop their career strategy, build on their leadership skills and develop self-awareness.

Ceri Willmott, Careers Consultant at Imperial College Business School, describes it as a “blended approach”, involving self-paced learning, reflective exercises, personal 1-2-1 support and interactive plenary sessions. “Student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of the relevance and impact,” she says.

Asmar Atif describes the PLJ at Imperial as a learning process. He says, “I’ve learnt more about myself on the programme than I have in my 12 years of work experience. The PLJ has been the highlight for me – it has been incredible and it’s helping me to develop self-awareness of the skills I need to develop.”

  1. An online MBA attracts a diverse and powerful network

Students on online MBAs bring a diverse range of experiences into the virtual classroom. Its flexibility over more traditional MBA formats, makes it more accessible to a wider range of professionals at different levels of experience, including career accelerators, working parents and senior leaders.

Crystal Grant

Crystal Grant, Head of Admissions at Imperial College Business School.

Crystal Grant, Head of Admissions at Imperial College Business School, says, “One of the things that’s most impressive about our Global Online MBA is the incredible diversity of the class.”

“Our position as a business school at the heart of one of the world’s leading STEM universities attracts candidates from engineering, tech and healthcare, alongside traditional MBA backgrounds like finance and consulting – and increasingly more creative industries.”

The breadth and depth of experience most likely found on an online MBA programme ensures powerful peer-to-peer learning, but also a strong sense of community and relationships that turn into a lifelong network.

“One concern amongst prospective students is that an online degree will prevent them from interacting with their fellow students enough to forge lasting connections,” Paolo says.

With advances in technology, and the addition of on-campus elements, an online MBA can be a highly interactive experience and students can build an influential global network. Be sure to check how a business school manages this experience.

Students routinely work and collaborate online and across time zones. Asmar says, “We don’t feel geographically apart because of technology. For example, my class has a WhatsApp group and then sub-groups split into topic areas. We interact daily: if one person has a question, then lots of others drop in to help. Every month, we take turns to give a virtual presentation on how we apply our learning to what we’re doing in our companies.

It’s also the reality of modern business in a global world. Talia says, “The idea that your colleagues are going to be down the corridor – especially as you move into senior levels – is an outdated concept. I love my peers and our WhatsApp group is by turns helpful, informative and hilarious.”

  1. Technology creates an outstanding learning experience

Business Schools are becoming more sophisticated in the way they use technology. Warwick Business School has a simulation of a bank trading floor and IE Business School uses its Window on the World technology to deliver interactive and engaging lectures.

Imperial College Business School has an award-winning Edtech Lab who have designed and built The Hub, a unique and innovative learning platform. David Lefevre,

David Lefevre

David Lefevre, Director, Edtech Lab.

Director, says, “The Hub replicates the essential components of an on-campus MBA programme while maintaining the quality of the experience in a format flexible enough to study around work, family and other commitments. Students can contact their professors and advisors on The Hub for feedback.”

The online format has a number of unique advantages compared to other formats of delivery. The Hub at Imperial is built to be interactive. It’s no ordinary online MBA: the platform and modules have been designed for a bespoke learning experience, with an emphasis on building community. The Hub is constantly innovating and improving based on student feedback. Imperial’s ownership and development of the technology means the Business School is able to incorporate new technology and advancements.

Students have the space to discuss and explore with their online classmates – typically logging in up to four times a day. They can post and share comments on articles, case studies, and completed exercises – insights that might not be heard during an in-class class experience. Experience Imperial’s bespoke learning environment The Hub

“I found the way that the online recorded content was executed really engaging,” Ed says, “For me, having the ability to download the programme content, get on the plane, and fire through an hour’s worth of video was perfect.”

Find a business school that uses its own virtual learning environment to deliver the online MBA, so you know the functionality you need is there. Can you easily log in and out across devices? Do you have the option to live stream lectures or access pre-recorded content?

  1. An online MBA from a top Business School is a prestigious and highly respected qualification

Finally, the perception of the online MBA is changing and coming into its own alongside its Full-Time, Part-Time and Executive counterparts. The last five years has seen a big increase in the number of top business schools offering online MBAs, marking a shift in how the market, and employers, have come to perceive it as an attractive and credible qualification.

Some providers, like Imperial, offer students the option to take elective modules on campus, alongside Full-Time, Weekend or Executive MBA students, eradicating the barrier between the on-campus and online programmes.

On graduation, all students receive the same Imperial MBA degree – regardless of how and where they studied, and they become alumni of Imperial College with access to thousands of brilliant minds across the globe.

“The admissions process for the Global Online MBA is as rigorous and thorough as our on-campus programmes, and we look for the same aptitudes, strengths and potential for academic and career success,” Crystal explains, “Our MBAs all graduate with the same qualification and become lifelong ambassadors for Imperial, so selecting the right candidates is really important. By making our Imperial MBA available online, we’ve received applications from high calibre candidates looking for a flexible MBA from a prestigious institution who might not have applied otherwise.”

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