You can go online to apply for a job, even search for your life partner, and now, to get an MBA as well. The Distance Education Council's recent bid to eliminate geographical boundaries by urging the IITs and the IIMs to offer online degrees has given a boost to online education in India. But is it the best way to get an MBA degree?
The concept. Online degrees are a step ahead of distance learning or correspondence courses, where the course material is given online or through post. In online courses, an interactive experience is created which is more like an actual classroom.
Ranjan Das, professor at IIM Calcutta and programme director of a one-year, part-time course (Long Duration), says, "Online courses are interactive, where students and the faculty are present at the same time, and can see each other through video, satellite or web conferencing."
The benefits. Flexible timing is a plus. Sailesh Mehta, CEO of Gurukul Online Learning Solutions, which is launching an online MBA course this year with Amity University, says, "The duration of such MBAs can be extended for those who are not able to complete the course in the normal time."
Their cost too is generally several times lower than that of on-campus courses. Another plus is that if a student misses a class, he can access the recorded lecture later and also discuss it with his batchmates in a common chat-room.
The options. Universities abroad have been offering online MBA programmes for a while now. For example, Open Universities Australia (OUA), University of Phoenix, US, and U21 Global, Singapore. In India, apart from Gurukul, Interactive Distance Learning (IDL) Center (with Cambridge College) will also offer online MBAs from this year. But institutes like IIMs and XLRI are yet to have online MBA courses.
The industry's view. A research recently conducted by Wall Street Journal and Harris Survey found that 40 per cent recruiters felt online MBAs were not at all effective.
- PC requirements: Broadband and headphones.
- Cost: About Rs 50,000 in India; Rs 30,000 (for OUA)-Rs 6.65 lakh (for U21 Global).
- Who can do it: BPO employees, businessmen, people on the move, professionals, people living in far flung or remote areas.
The scene in India is similar. Shwetabh Jha, consultant with HR consultancy firm Gallup India, says, "Blue-blooded consultants will not consider someone with an online MBA degree. An MBA is not just about the curriculum but also about a group of individuals put together where the learning is through mutual enrichment. This is absent in an online MBA."
Charanpreet Singh, associate dean, Praxis Business School, Kolkata, a joint initiative of IMS (Institute of Management Studies) and XLRI, says that the industry is of the opinion that an online degree is pursued only by those who have not cleared CAT. "Moreover, these institutes do not have campus placements," says Singh.
So, should you go for it? An online MBA may not give you an exponential value-add, say experts, but it is certainly better than doing a full-time MBA from a tier-III institute.
Asim Kumar, head (northern region), HR consultancy Cerebrus, says, "An online MBA can give the student some perspective, but cannot replace a full-time MBA." Singh agrees, but adds that if someone does not want to give up his job and cannot afford a full-time MBA, doing an online MBA is better than doing nothing.
The future. Online MBAs may not be accepted now, but this could change. "Technology has improved and the experience of an online MBA is getting richer," says Singh.
Das feels that as good faculty is increasingly in short supply, online MBAs have an edge since a professor can reach 200-250 students through them. "Online MBAs will gain popularity as mindsets change," says Kumar.
An online MBA might be a good choice if you are working or cannot do an on-campus programme. The risk is, it may be some time before the industry accepts it fully.