Distance learning or online MBA programs come in a variety of styles and blends. The three main paradigms that define these programs are synchronous learning, asynchronous learning and blended MBA programs. While some programs emphasize one of these elements over another, most high-quality online MBA programs combine all three elements in one variation or another.
Synchronous learning is an approach to online education in which students learn the same things at the same time with real-time interactions between students and faculty. These programs use video-conferencing and social networking technology to allow students and faculty to hold discussions and review course materials together, much like an on-campus class. Kenan-Flagler’s MBA@UNC program
emphasizes synchronous learning (although it has an asynchronous component as well) to provide an experience more like a traditional MBA with small classes in which students and faculty become familiar with each others’ faces and voices, rather than just their names. Synchronous learning creates a high degree of accountability among students by requiring them to perform their academic duties in partnership with others at particular times.
Asynchronous learning is an approach to distance learning in which students do not necessarily learn the same things at the same time. This approach uses tools such as lecture videos and discussion boards to allow students to work on their own schedules and/or interact more slowly over a longer timeline. Asynchronous learning may involve less interaction between students and faculty, although this varies widely between programs. IE’s Executive MBA program
, which typically enrolls students from 20 different countries who have demanding work and travel schedules, emphasizes asynchronous learning. Asynchronous learning programs work well for students with high motivation and strong organizational skills, and for those with irregular or inflexible schedules.
Blended MBA Programs
Blended, or Hybrid MBA programs combine elements of online study with classes on a physical campus or campuses. These programs come in many different varieties and seek a balance between the best aspects of distance learning programs and traditional MBA programs. Babson College’s Fast Track MBA
features 20 hours of online coursework each week as well as 2 ½ days of rigorous face-to-face classes every seven weeks at either their San Francisco or Massachusetts campuses. Such programs can be a strong choice for students living in the general area of the school’s campus, but may be difficult for students that would have to fly to regular class sessions.