As business professionals, we have all thought about it at one time or another. “I really should go back to school and get my MBA.” The idea of gaining more in-depth knowledge, getting an integrated understanding of all business functions, and earning that promotion to make more money has fueled many a desire to go back to school as an MBA student.
Often, however, as we revel in our “going-back-to-school” daydream, reality starts creeping in. A small voice echoes, “Where do I find the time? Between my job, my family, and outside interests where can I squeeze in the time to go to school?” Brakes screech and your visions end. You mentally catalog “Go back to school” as a future to-do and get back to your day job. Sound familiar? That was the case for me.
Recently I caught myself entering into the same thought pattern again, only to negate it (again). And then I had an epiphany: It’s never going to get easier. I realized if I continually put it off until I “had time” I would never earn my degree.
So, I decided to take the plunge.
First, I had to weigh my options: Traditional vs. Online? While traditional programs offer a great education and lots of in-person interaction, I wasn’t sure I would have time to travel to a campus every day. Maybe I could achieve the same goal and get the same high-quality education in an online classroom.
As I dove into researching the world of post-graduate education, I made a short list of criteria that I knew could make or break my successful participation in an MBA program.
My Online MBA Criteria
As I looked at my current work schedule and available time, I realized that I needed to consider how much drive time I would have to invest to attend class at an on-ground campus. In calculating that math, I was looking at 4-5 hours a week in drive time alone, just to get to class, nevermind the time needed to spend in the course and completing the homework. With an online program, I could sit at my desk in my home office and work in shorts and a T-shirt, with no drive time! Plus, my time-savings factor on a weekly basis equaled +4 hours. I placed a check in the online MBA column.
As I went through my checklist, leaning more and more towards the online MBA option, I found myself wondering, “How much interaction am I going to get in an online classroom? Am I going to be another faceless person typing information into a computer waiting to get my grade? If this was going to be the case, why bother?” I left this as an open question.
The last burning question I had was around the credibility and accreditation of online MBA programs. I learned that regional accreditation and other specialized business accreditations are important seals of approval for potential students to understand when selecting an MBA program. A strong team of faculty is another important aspect in choosing an online MBA program. In most traditional programs you have highly qualified, credentialed professors, often with national and international reputations.
After much research, I decided to enroll in the Jack Welch Management Institute (JWMI)’s online program to pursue my MBA. I had discovered that JWMI held both regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) for setting high standards of educational excellence and the program was also recently awarded accreditation from the internationally recognized Association of Collegiate Business School Programs (ACBSP). As for the faculty, each of the professors had been selected based on their credentials and the business skills they possess. For example, Dr. Emad Rahim teaches my current marketing and was recently recognized by the United Nations for his contributions to the entrepreneurship ecosystem and was also asked to be a part of the TED series as a business thought leader, following an impressive academic career.
After completing my third class at JWMI, I can say with authority that my fears about interaction in an online learning environment were unfounded. Students have discussion questions that have to be answered each week, forum-style, encouraging everyone to engage in rich debates and conversations. Through these lively forums, I’ve met some great people. They are knowledgeable business professionals from all over the world and, boy, will they will challenge your thoughts on the discussion boards! We all remember our days in school when maybe we were just not in the mood, so we sat in class and either didn’t participate or gave an answer that we pulled out of the air. These tactics won’t work at JWMI. In class, you are required to share your ideas in an environment where the faculty and students challenge and support each other on a daily basis.
For me, the final selling point for the MBA program I selected was the school’s leader, Jack Welch. I mean, he is one of the top business leaders of all time, and his management innovations will continue to influence every industry for the generations to come. It is great being in an online MBA program that allows you to participate in live conference calls with Jack and submit questions to him directly.
I’m glad I stopped procrastinating and decided to go for it. So far, taking my MBA online has been one of the best decisions of my life.