Employers Warm Up to Online MBAs and For-Profit Schools

Employers Warm Up to Online MBAs Posted by: Alison Damast on July 06, 2012 Tweet http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-07-06/employers-warm-up-to-online-mbas

Online MBA programs may be losing some of the stigma they have in the marketplace, as more employers say they are increasingly open to hiring graduates of these programs, according to a study published in this summer’s Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. The authors of the study, Jeffrey Bailey of Walden University and Larry Flegle of the American Public University System, interviewed 20 hiring managers from some of the leading companies in Wisconsin, including those in the health-care, financial, and insurance industries. Half of the employers surveyed said that the format the degree was earned in, whether online or in a traditional MBA classroom, would not be a significant factor in their decision to hire or promote a job candidate. The vast majority also said that it would not make a difference if a potential hire had earned a degree from the University of Wisconsin’s Consortium Online MBA program or one of the public university system’s traditional full-time MBA programs, says Bailey, who did the survey as his dissertation while a management PhD student at Walden University, which offers online degrees. Their responses are a sign that the “acceptance of online degrees has improved,” Bailey says. “One person I interviewed made the comment that if I had asked five years ago, the answer would be different,” he says. “Things are changing because more people [who] have gone through online programs are out working in the business world and doing well, which gives the degree more credibility.” Another surprising finding? All 20 of the employers interviewed said it did not matter to them whether a job candidate had earned his or her online MBA from a for-profit educational institution or a not-for-profit school, as long as the degree program was properly accredited. Despite the warmer reception by employers toward online MBA graduates, alumni of these programs still face significant hurdles when they apply for jobs. For example, some employers believe that online MBA programs are not as high quality, rigorous, or competitive as regular full-time programs. About half the employers surveyed said they still have reservations about the quality of the classroom experience in an online MBA program, favoring the more traditional brick-and-mortar programs. For example, the importance of face-to-face student interactions in the classroom, on teams, and in group projects was cited six times by this group as a value-adding factor for a traditional MBA, the study found. Others said they had little experience with online MBA job candidates and did not believe online MBA students were as serious about their careers as those in full-time MBA programs. “You do have some people who still question how well you can develop socialization skills to work with other people if you are getting the degree online,” Bailey says. “One person I interviewed said, ‘How do I know if someone who spent the last two or three years getting their MBA in pajamas can come into the office?’ That is maybe a sarcastic type of comment, but that is what some people still think.” Recruiters with those prejudices are becoming less prevalent as more employers become open-minded about prospective job candidates with online MBA degrees. Ann Nowak, director of recruiting for professional programs at Liberty Mutual Insurance, a property and casualty insurer owned by its policy holders, says that the company hired one graduate from an online MBA program last year and recently hired another one who’ll be coming on board this year. Nowak recruits students from the top 50 MBA programs but says she will occasionally consider students from online MBA programs, provided they have excellent grades and a strong job history. She prefers candidates who come from schools where the online core curriculum is closely aligned to the school’s full-time MBA program and a short residency is required, such as the online MBA program dubbed MBA@UNC at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. “Is it out of the question that I would hire someone from an online degree program? No, there is a good possibility that I would, but the candidate’s experience and academic record would have to be really rich for that person to get hired,” she says. “They’d have to really bowl me over when they interview with me.” ______________


What else can an article in Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, whose obvious aim is to take care of the interest of and promote distance learning, say? A study based on a sample of 20 recruiters from a specific and highly limited gegraphical location (Wisconsin) out of which only half, 10 to be precise, narrating what this article says! Not even majotity of (i.e. 60 or 75%) the limited 20 sample recruiters have ‘warned up to online MBA’s’! Any one knowledgable with sample size and vailidity of the results for generalisation will hesitate to agree or take the ‘claims’ of the study at face value in any larger context. Obviously the aim of the online journal of distance education and the authors of the study (the lead author being from an online distance learning universit ) is to promote their ware through such highly limited and biased studies with almost nil generalisation possible. From extensive experience of more than 20 years in the recruiting role I can say that it may be true for (only) 50% of the (limited no. of) 20 employers from Wisconsin covered in the study but is not true in majority of the cases globally and surely not true where the employers have a wide choice to select from 'regular full-time qualified ’ candidates as against the ‘on-line or distance learning qulaified’ candidates. Many recruiters don’t even give it a second look, specially if an MBA is the requirement. Hope this article does not mislead the serious aspirants looking for a marketable higher qualification.

Well mygos, It is fine for you to voice an opinion…that is free speech. You points would have more power if you would include the findings of your research. Dr. Bailey and I worked on this paper as a result of his doctoral research. Our findings are sound. We did discuss the limitations of our findings. This was a qualitative study and our sample size follows generally accepted research methods. I have been a hiring manager at a Fortune 100 company and a recruiter at a national recruiting company. I believe our research supports everything I have learned from those positions.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

Dr. Larry V. Flegle

^Respect. My man Shaq matriculated from an online for profit school.

I think that the acceptance of online MBAs may follow the pattern of acceptance of online Journal articles; for a long time, it is perceived as massively inferior, then slowly gaining acceptance, and then over a period of just a few years, becomes accepted.

It may always have some kind of discount in terms of how strong the team/alumni bonds might be, but as more and more jobs themselves become remote, it will start to become just a natural way of interacting.

A big part of it may also be that instructors need to learn how to teach effectively in the online mode, so there’s a learning curve and evolution on that side of the equation too.

Thanks, Mr. Flegle for your response.

_ "We did discuss the limitations of our findings. _" That is exactly the weakness of your study. It may be good study for a specific purpose ( may be for Ph. D. thesis) but generalising it globally or even for the US continent sounds too farfetched and away from ground reality. You too have every right to stick to your opinion however ‘biased’ it may be but I am sure AF readers know what claims to believe and by how much.

I have greatest respect for you as a “Hiring Manager” of a Fortune 100 company and have no reasons to doubt your observations, however different it may be from mine or others. Obviously what you learnt from’ those positions’ will always be supported by your research; but as a true researcher you will agree that real worth and value of a research lies in its support and agreement from independent and external entities. I have discussed the same with many and am yet to find so (may be because I am associated with the global companies at international level but not at any national level in particular, hence the difference!). Also being associated with quite a few Open Universities and DLP providers as Board/ Academic Committee member I am exposed to other side of the story too and it happens to be the second biggest concern of any distance learning institution and their management, next only to the very high drop out rate (as high as 80% in some courses in DL/On-line and Open Universities). Hence, I find it difficult to accept your observation in general and /or global context, despite your reasearch with obvious ‘limitations’ (which you may have discussed too in your thesis but not so openly in the quoted article) …

I always thought a large part of the mba was working as a team with other candidates…how can you do that online?

I don’t see what the fuss is about. Some observations were made, reported, and commented upon given the state of knowledge of the area. So it was published in a journal that was friendly to the concept of online learning. So what? No one is using this as a basis for a political platform, it’s just part of a discussion.

This is hard to replicate, but it is also true that an increasing amount of business is transacted between people and teams that are virtually connected: how can businesses do that online? Indeed, how can we be at all confident that face-to-face MBA candidates actually know how to do this?

“employers” doesn’t include GS/MS/DB/JPM/UBS/HSBC/CS/Nomura/Barclays…

I have been teaching online since 1992. I am sure this is longer than most instructors. Collaborating online has become very “real world”. My wife headed up a team of ten IT professionals that she only saw face-to-face once a year. They worked well together and were highly paid. I realize that many people will not make the transition to working in the virtual world. That’s fne. I choose to be here and find it to be very lifestyle friendly. My experiences have been positive for me. Others will have different experiences and opinions. I believe that is the beauty of our wonderful nation.

Dr. Larry V Flegle

BTW, I did not write the article nor did I post it here.


It takes several successful people who graduated with an online MBA to remove some of the stigma.