The Raymond A. Mason School of Business will begin a new online Masters of Business Administration program in August, enrolling about 25 graduate students. An exciting step forward for online education, the program will likely help the College of William and Mary experiment and improve future efforts at both the undergraduate and graduate level, while also providing flexibility to working students.
After four years in Williamsburg, M.B.A.–seeking alums may be reluctant to return. However, the online M.B.A. program requires only that students attend one weekend networking session on campus during their two years. Students would not have to uproot their lives in order to attend the business school and might be more likely to enroll in the program given its flexibility and the familiarity of their alma mater.
In addition to allowing students to live anywhere, the online M.B.A.’s technological innovations will make learning more amenable to working life. A customized mobile app will allow students to access course materials in a more organized and convenient way.
With only 25 students, the program will allow them to get to know one another, creating opportunities for collaboration and improvements to the program. Students may live all over the country and have different career goals, which will bring a diversity of geography and experience to the program. This small size, however, means that individual students have a major impact on the graduation rate of the program. Rather than accept a potentially lower graduation rate, the College and its faculty should take this as a challenge, constantly seeking feedback and encouraging students to continue with the program. Such actions will make students feel more involved in their education and provide better quality feedback to professors, who can use the information to make adjustments.
Further, the day-to-day activities of the online M.B.A. will give the College more working knowledge about online education. The faculty members who designed the program will be facilitating it, allowing them to observe what works and what does not, and to present their findings to future professors looking to create online education opportunities.
As of right now, the College offers very few online courses and no other online graduate or undergraduate programs similar to online M.B.A. Its past reluctance to expand into online education has been understandable, but the success of online degree programs at hundreds of universities has proven that online education is not simply a fad. We are pleased to see that the business school has taken the initiative, and we hope that the rest of the College follows.