U.S. News & World Report has ranked the University of Delaware’s Online MBA program 22nd in the country as part of the 2018 US News Best Online programs rankings. This is a jump of 43 places, as UD’s Online MBA program was ranked 65th in 2017 and 72nd in 2016.
From its launch in 2013 with 52 graduate students, the Online MBA program has grown to 252 students in fall 2017, and is now the largest graduate program at Lerner College and one of the largest at UD.
All five departments in UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics contribute core and elective courses to the Online MBA program. The 44-credit hour program features intensive 7-week terms, access to personal career coaching, and five concentrations including finance, business analytics and healthcare.
“Impressive outcomes like this are a consequence of numerous people making many special, sustained efforts that focused on excellence and continuous improvement,” said Lerner College Dean Bruce Weber.
One such person, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Programs Jack Baroudi, said that the most important thing for UD’s online MBA students is to get the same educational experience and value as the on-campus MBA students. “Our curriculum is the same, the faculty who teach in both programs are the same, and the degree is the same,” Baroudi said.
“They’re getting a very robust program and experience,” Baroudi continued. “Sometimes people think online means easier, but in this case it’s absolutely the same quality and rigor as on-campus.”
While ensuring that the quality is the same as the on-campus program, Baroudi continued, UD’s Online MBA also incorporates a number of unique elements that cater to online students.
The UD Online MBA team, he said, has worked with instructional designers “to really make sure that our courses are adhering to all the best practices for online education, as well as incorporating all the lessons that we’ve learned about what really works well for Online MBA students.
“We’re very attuned to providing a high-quality experience for the online learner because we know they have needs and requirements that are different from on-campus students,” Baroudi said.
One example of this is the online course’s live weekly office hour. While students can complete online coursework at any point during the week, for one hour a week students are invited to join a live videoconference meeting. During this time, professors answer questions live and offer feedback based on student performance.
“Students have the ability to meet weekly with their faculty live,” Baroudi said. “This is one way that online program can combine the flexibility of online coursework with the high touch experience of in-person assistance from individual professors.”
Baroudi added that online students require very quick responses to emails, since they may only have a few hours in the week to get work done and need their questions answered in a compressed time period. And, when assigning group work in online courses, faculty members survey the students for their time availability and assign students to groups accordingly.
“Online students generally are online because they have certain restrictions on their time,” Baroudi said. “By helping to create teams that allow them to work within those restrictions this makes for a much more positive experience and outcome for the students.”
The program has also introduced video conferencing for Career Services coaches to work with online students, and Career Services has been developing online speaker sessions that enable online students to watch and participate during guest speaker presentations.
“They get to have the same kind of career-enhancing experience as regular on-campus students would have,” Baroudi said.
Thoughtful touches like this are part of why UD Online MBA students like Dianna Vass, who earned her undergraduate degree in Fashion Merchandising from UD, say they enjoy the program.
Vass said that she signed up for the program because “A Lerner MBA will provide important connectivity between my UD undergraduate degree, my graduate work and my career experiences.”
Her favorite things about the program, she said, include the “great mentors” in the administration, faculty and staff.
“Advice and suggestions are delivered with professionalism and tailored for your career and leadership development,” Vass said.
Other highlights of the Online MBA program, she said, include the curriculum’s ability to connect and reinforce key concepts, and the interaction of MBA students through discussion boards.
These boards, she said, provide “opportunities to learn, listen to different perspectives, and to create and work in virtual teams together.”