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UNR’s Executive Online MBA Degree – Thoughts from a non-online MBA Student

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I am currently enrolled in the MBA BADM 772 Saturday class.  In this class, we are encouraged to participate in class discussions (as with any class – right?) and network with our peers.

One of my peers mentioned how there is a new program emerging:  The Executive Online MBA Degree.  This is a degree taught by current UNR MBA staff – and for $2000 per class and 36 credits you can obtain your MBA degree online.

Do I agree with this?

I believe the flexibility would be wonderful.

I’d love to enroll in an online class or two.

But I think the most beneficial part of the MBA program is exposing the students to other peers focused on developing themselves professionally, learning public speaking skills beyond what we learn from undergrad degrees, and developing long-lasting personal and professional relationships.

I value the relationships I have developed within my classes.  It’s a breath of fresh air to meet people who have the same aligned goals as myself.  But more importantly – I learn so much from my peers that I have class with.  I learn about what companies are great to work for.  I learn the many different reasons why people are pursuing their MBA.

I don’t think an online degree has less value, but I personally value my in-class experience.

The fact that someone else can come to UNR and take online classes while I’m spending hours after work in class (plus additional hours after class doing homework) to obtain the SAME degree kind of IRKS me.

What irks me most though is that these people can get the same degree with FEWER classes.  While I’m working on completing 51 credits, someone else can receive the same degree from the same institution with only 36 credits.  That is FIVE FEWER CLASSES!!!

I personally don’t that that is too fair – why are we required to attend class with 51 credits whereas an online student only needs to take 36 credits online?  I feel (and this is completely my personal beliefs) that by only requiring 36 online credits is weakening the degree I am pursuing.  Will I apply for a job and have my employer say:

“Big deal – she has an MBA from Nevada.  Anyone can get that degree online for only 12 classes.”

We’ll see – right?

28 responses »

  1. Love it Ashley, you hit a home-run with this post.

    I’ll say it, an online degree does have less value, and for precisely the reasons you just said above. And I know this because I have seen first hand the reaction of hiring managers to a resume with an online degree listed as the education. I hate to say it, but they do carry less value, and not necessarily because of the education obtained, as an online degree could i guess educate to the same level. The problem is that you can’t develop the leadership skills (including the networking aspect as you mention) necessary to be a great leader from online only courses – my opinion.

    Well said. 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment, RJ! I completely left out anything regarding the necessary leadership skills that someone with an MBA should have – great point! I’m just worried if this online degree from UNR will weigh down the value of the in-class MBA program.

  2. I feel your frustration. My husband works in higher ed and this is always a concern for the brand of the University and degree. I’d express your concerns to the school about the discrepancy in credit hours and the lack of differentiation in the two degree names. They should at least rename the online degree in some way. You have the right to demand this.
    The University is also making a big mistake by equating these two degrees. They are diluting their brand so voraciously for a trend that they will eventually lose their full-timers. No full-timers=reliance on online degree seekers. It is doubtful that they would be able to compete in that market right now. If they aren’t going “whole hog” on that front, they should stay away from sacrificing their brand integrity for a small share of the market.
    Wharton School of Business had a “non-traditional college student” degree years ago (even an MBA, too, I think) but they stopped offering it. Penn felt it cheapened Wharton too much.
    This sounds like a perfect area of research for a personal or class MBA project, especially since all universities think the online degree is the pot of gold under the rainbow. It’s an illusion that will catch up with them all soon. I’m sure many people would be interested to see what you come up with.

    • Christine – you are an absolute GENIUS! Thank you so much for the references. I think it definitely sounds like a great research project to analyze the new program and its effectiveness. Thank you thank you!

  3. Ashley

    I completely agree with you on this one. When I first heard they were going to be offering an online MBA, I thought “Oh that’s cool, I wonder if I can take any of those classes.” But after looking into it, I was furious. Paying more money, for less classes, with less hands on experience. I sure hope we get to differentiate between the two programs, because I think the in-class MBA is much more powerful than an online MBA.


    • Eric I did the same thing! I like online classes occasionally (when you need a “catching up” method) so I wanted to see the classes. That’s when I became really irritated. We will see how it works out – I’d really like to hear UNR’s thoughts on this program and how it will impact those of us in the “traditional” MBA program.

  4. Ashley, I completely agree with you! When my friend Jenny first told me about it yesterady (I believe she’s in your Saturday class), I was speechless. Not only will it take the online students one whole year less to complete their degree, it will make UNR less competitive in a way to have a online degree. Just like RJ, I have seen first hand how a employer rejects a resume simply because the applicant has a online degree. It is just not viewed the same as a traditional degree. And I don’t think it’s fair for others to have the same degree as us, spend way less time working on it, and to be just as competitive as we are just because they pay more per class.

    • Irene – thank you for the comment! Jenny and I are in the same class where we heard about this new MBA program. I’m surprised how both you and RJ commented on how an online degree is viewed on a resume – I would never have realized that it had that big of an impact!

  5. Hi Ashley,
    OK, so I am hoping on the bandwagon here, but I completely agree with your post and the ensuing comments. Some of us chose this particular degree program because of its reputation and value. And, personally, I work very hard for my grades and my credits. Creating an online degree program, especially one that is not differentiated from the experience that we are going through, is not the same and DOES cheapen what we have accomplished. Isn’t it interesting that if you pay more, it is easier and takes less time? In my opinion, this is ridiculous. A degree should be a representation of the quality of work and effort put forth and the culmination of achieving an experience. I’m with you on this one!!!

    • Mackenzie – you said it perfectly in your second to last sentence,

      A degree should be a representation of the quality of work and effort put forth and the culmination of achieving an experience.

      Everything we do in our classes is for the experience which will ultimately make us the strongest leaders/business professionals we can be. Thank you for the comment, and thank you for supporting my opinions 🙂

  6. Thanks Ashley.

    An Executive MBA program has a different target student than either a full-time or part-time MBA program. Typically, an E-MBA program requires 5 years of professional experience in a management or executive position in order to be admitted. There were only a handful of peers in my MBA program who had that level of experience at their organizations. I like what Northwestern University says on their site in regards to their E-MBA program – “Executive MBAs don’t have to wait until graduation to test classroom strategies on the job — they can start on Monday morning.”

    I would disagree with some that it makes UNR less competitive. Many top-ranked MBA programs and business schools also offer an Executive MBA program. Northwestern (Kellogg), Pennsylvania (Wharton), Chicago (Booth), USC (Marshall). I would agree however, that I would look at a resume that included a degree from any of these programs before one from an online program like University of Phoenix. Remember, the diploma from UNR (just like the other top programs) isn’t going to say “online”.

    I agree with you that there is tremendous value from the personal interaction with classmates and professors. You don’t necessarily get that interaction online. That said, I think UNR is creating an opportunity here to reach a different audience and reach potential students outside of the region that can’t be serviced by an on-campus program. With an audience of current executives/experienced managers and a delivery mechanism designed to attract “non-Nevadans”, I’m not sure there would be any significant competitive impact to those in the on-campus, part-time program.

    • Thank you very much for your input, Paul!! I think it is important to remind myself that essentially UNR is attempting to reach out to other students and diversify the MBA student population. Very well put! I’m curious what your thoughts are on the fact that the E-MBA program is 5 classes (15 credits) fewer than the MBA program I am currently enrolled in.

      • Sure. I can’t speak to the requirements for admittance into UNR’s E-MBA program but for others, the assumption is at least 5 years of hands-on mid-level management or executive level experience. That type of demonstrated, current experience easily translates to 15 credits.

        That said, I also understand that there are a large number of managers and executives who could benefit from taking “core” MBA classes but the assumption is they have already demonstrated the skills that match that coursework.

        Of course, this all goes out the window if there is no experience requirement for the Executive MBA program. In that case, I would share your concern related to the lowered credit requirement.

  7. Well, it obviously would behoove the University to accept as many as possible into the E-MBA program. I’m sure if you reviewed a random sample of the applications, you’d find less than 5 yrs management experience.

    In essence, these people are paying for a degree. The University thinks there are dollars out there to be made and they are grabbing for them. This is simple.

    Paul, let us not demean each other by bringing out the e-program marketing rhetoric. The standards for admittance for the E-MBA program are mere marketing tactics. They will not turn away anyone who wants to give the University their money. It is a for-profit program. You do the math. They will squeeze in as many students as they can. They won’t be overwhelmed with applicants; they will go begging for them. So why on earth would they turn down someone who doesn’t have all the minimum requirements? They wouldn’t. Wake up. This story is not new. Academics, marketers, and University administrations have been talking about this for a decade. No-one believes the spew of “tight standards” for “executive” admissions. If these applicants were truly executives, they’d have no need to put an MBA after their name. Plenty of board members, CEO’s etc, who worked their way up to the top without it. These applicants are middle managers (at best) who think the investment will help them move forward. Let us not pretend that there are standards for admittance. Even if the University believes its own rhetoric on this, their standards will decline. It has happened at other universities and it will happen at yours. As I said, this is not some case study that’s never been done before.

    I suggest you test this theory by putting through a few test applications, with the lowest, most base accomplishments possible. I’m sure admittance will happen. Perhaps, Ashley, you could recruit a local newspaper to help you investigate.


    • Christine – I can’t help but feel that the E-MBA program is simply designed to bring in more money and produce the same results. Christine – I agree with everything you have said in regards to the E-MBA being simply a marketing ploy. The regular MBA program requires 2 years of work experience. Did I have that? Of course not! I had an internship for 1 year at the time, and work experience at a salon and daycare, but other than that I did not meet the 2 year work requirement. Did they still accept me? Of course they did. And I don’t know anyone who has been turned down because they didn’t meet the work-experience requirements.

      Paul – As far as executives with 5+ years experience, I think that some of them may still require the basic core classes that typically can be waived. If you’re an engineering manager for 5 years, what are the chances you’ve written a business proposal before? Those core classes cover what non-business undergrads miss in their majors. I agree that if they really enforce the 5 years… then MAAAAYYBEEE it would be understandable. But then I feel bad for those I’m taking classes with that work 40+ hours a week, have been in an executive-level position, have children and families at home, yet they still struggle through a typical in-class MBA course with the rest of us. I also know plenty of people who label themselves titles such as “IT Manager” and “HR Manager” of a small family business – how do we distinguish between a manager with 5 years of experience at Microsoft vs. a manager with 5 years of experience at a small family business? Hopefully by reaching out to a difference audience, we can generate more money for the MBA program and we can begin to offer the variety of classes that were once offered to the students.

      • Why do you feel bad for those who work 40+ hours, have been in an executive-level position, have children and families at home, yet they still struggle through a typical in-class MBA course with the rest of us?

        That describes me when I completed my MBA. I made the choice to pursue an MBA and had the support of my family. I typically worked 50 hours and traveled between Reno and Las Vegas, often taking the 6am flight down and getting back in time to make it to a 5:30 class followed up by a 7:00-10:00. None of my core classes were waived, not because I didn’t have the experience but simply because I was out of school for too long. Didn’t bother me at all.

        Working in both large corporations, consulting for them, and also working in small business I would have to say I wore more hats in the small business. Not only did I have to lead technical teams but also deal with budgets, operations, sales, marketing, etc. That’s not to say I didn’t learn a lot writing proposals and implementing major systems throughout the US, it was just different. Personally, candidates for any program should have to describe their experience, not just their titles. When the average managerial experience for E-MBA programs is eight years and work experience of 14 years, there should be plenty to write about.

        Thanks again for the lively discussion. I enjoy the passion people put into their arguments. Very refreshing.

      • Wow I’m having a hard time keeping up with the comments! And I apologize- I should have gone into more detail when I said “I feel bad…” What I am referring to is if this program is catered to someone already in the program, I’d feel “cheated” almost that I meet the requirements of the program with fewer classes, but is currently enrolled in the more labor intensive program. I suppose it is supposed to all boil down to experience, but Irene said it best when he described how experience is a requirement that we currently turn a blind eye to if someone doesn’t meet those requirements. I think it’s important for experience to be enforced, but will it be?

    • Christine,
      For a program that hasn’t even begun you do make a lot of assumptions about it. Are you SURE a random sample of Executive MBA programs would show less than 5 years management experience? I don’t think facts support that claim.

      In fact, the San Francisco Business Times reported in January this year that “the average executive MBA student is 37 years old, with eight years of managerial experience and 13 years of professional experience” according to a 2010 survey (your random sample). Most demographic reports from E-MBA programs nationwide report similar statistics. Even the Fox School at your Alma Mater Temple shows similar demographics.

      As far as not being “overwhelmed” with applicants, looking at actual statistics for the top E-MBA programs, most have acceptance rates between 33% and 59%. Granted, the acceptance rate for E-MBA programs are generally higher than for full-time MBA programs the fact that up to 66% of applicants are being turned away doesn’t seem to fit with the “let everyone in” hypothesis.

      Corporate sponsorship of E-MBA programs has dropped to about 33% with the remainder of applicants either being partially reimbursed or having to pay themselves. Yes, most are middle manager looking to advance their careers. I support their investment in themselves if they do it through a quality program with quality faculty. I have consulted with corporations who sponsored executives because they did indeed want their leadership team to get the breadth of knowledge found in executive MBA programs. The fact that majority of people now are paying their own way puts more pressure on institutions to deliver a quality program which you can’t get by allowing “anybody” in.

    • Christine – I have to agree with you that the University just wants to make profit and will accept anyone that applies. Although the requirement for the traditional MBA program is 2 years of professional experience with a GMAT score above 500 (or is it 550?), I know plenty of people who have no work experiences of any kind (not even part time at a retail store) with GMAT scores in the 400s getting accepted and are taking classes with me. The University definitely isn’t being very selective at all. It makes me feel like, even after putting in all these time and effort, my MBA degree isn’t valued the way it should since anyone can get one if they just pay for it.

      • People pay for credentials all the time. That is very common and I totally understand your frustration. In the professional setting you’ll see people who have taken a 1-week class to “buy” their certification rather than “earning” their certification. Essentially, they take a class just to pass an exam but really can’t apply what they have learned.

        There are a number of people who go straight from an undergraduate program into their MBA program. Some provide great insight into issues because they offer a fresh perspective. Others, who enter after some years of professional experience provide value because of their experience. I look at is as a win-win in an education environment as long as people are contributing.

        In the end it boils down to the value of the individual and what they bring to the table. Just because somebody has added MBA, CISSP, CPA, CFA, or other impressive credential to their resume doesn’t mean they are capable of delivering. It helps get your foot in the door for an interview but after that, employers really don’t care about anything other than your ability to deliver value. To that end, it appears everyone posting here is in good shape.

      • Irene- well put! And that’s the exact experience I have had with other MBA peers. Ultimately they just want our money and will – don’t quote me – accept almost anyone, regardless of requirements. So like I have mentioned to Paul, are these new requirements going to be enforced? Or will it be just another program with no differentiation other than fewer classes that are online?

  8. Pingback: MBA Resource Center » Blog Archive » UNR's Executive Online MBA Degree – Thoughts from a non-online MBA …

  9. OK. I hear you guys. You are disappointed that this new degree is devaluing your full-time degree. I’ll give you 4 hints now to get some added value out of your degree that the E-MBA people can’t.

    1. Personal Networking. This seems simple, but many people get so overwhelmed with work and life that they forget to make social ties with professors and fellow students. Do you know why people go to Yale, or Harvard? Not necessarily for the education, nor the prestige. It’s the people they meet there. Sociology research shows us that almost 100% of jobs, relationships, etc., all come from a first, second or third level contact. Do not forget to follow-up with professors after you finish their class. Take time to make a database of your fellow students and their interests. Make social time for coffee with classmates and perhaps people in other years you find interesting. Keep notes. Keep up with them. Create a Facebook group. This is part of why you are paying to be there full-time, to make human connections. Especially keep up with your professors. When you are in a job and a challenge is set in front of you, you can impress superiors by saying, “You know what, I’m going to shoot an email to my one Marketing prof and see what she says.” Online degree-getters won’t and can’t say this.

    2. Extra physical materials. Many times, professors like to offer hand-outs of different articles, etc. that you can keep and use for further reference. Keep track of these gems, they can actually prove quite helpful later, especially if they have references to studies, statistics, etc. When you are at work and you are wondering which course to take on a project, you can skim through these extra materials for interesting, current info.

    3. Absorption, Adoption/Assimilation. When you are in school full-time, in a school setting, with fellow students, you can really absorb the lessons. Discussions, papers, lectures, etc., are all designed to help you grasp, then adopt or modify the lessons presented. E-MBA people just do the work. You KNOW the work. This translates later when, at a job, you can say, “You know, we went over a relevant theory once and one student couldn’t agree with the professor on it. We will have to make a choice here on this project.” Having multiple and varied opportunities to learn the material is a benefit of full-time work.

    4. Stories. Read Tell to Win by Peter Gruber. I am a corporate story-teller; I grab the company’s lore and turn it into sound bites for CEOs to relay to their people. You have the opportunity as a full-time student to hear other students’ and professors’ stories. Stories are the best way to prove a point and to persuade others to join your cause. Write down the best ones and the business/psychology concepts that go along with them.

    If you fully take advantage of the human element of your degree, you will be impressive to any future employer. An MBA isn’t just about getting the work turned in; it’s about raising your ability to think analytically and maximizing your opportunities to build a human network.

  10. I can’t speak about the online MBA program written about in this blog post. However, I can speak about the experiences of an online learner. Currently, I am earning my doctorate in Educational Leadership and Management at Capella University. We are put into cohorts. Meaning, we stay with the same group of students until we reach the dissertation phase.

    I have learned so much from my classmates. Aside from our exchanges inside the courseroom, we talk on the phone about coursework, career goals, as well as what the educational landscape looks like in our respectful fields. We’ve even Skyped, as a group, to help each other in understanding difficult material in the courses. Not to mention how we connect with each other on a personal level.

    Lastly, I’ve been able to build relationships with professors in a way that I hadn’t during my time in a traditional program. Beyond email, we are encouraged to call our professors if we have questions. I can’t begin to describe how beneficial that has been for me in taking my game to the next level.

    • Will- you’re so right about the importance of professor relationships and how important they are! I have a lot of friends who use professor recommendations for job resumes and applications. How do you develop that relationship with peers and professors in an online degree?? Thank you for your input and comment, Will!

  11. Ashley,

    As for how we build relationships, I wrote about it in my comment above. It isn’t that difficult to do. Just like you and I using your blog and Twitter to communicate, the same and even more can be done within an online learning environment.



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