Benefits of Distance Learning
Convenience. If you work during the day, then the ability to earn your MBA from the comfort of your own home and on your own schedule can't be beat. Around-the-clock access, a self-paced schedule, and sophisticated interactive technology allow you to manage your life as you see fit while still meeting degree requirements.
Pacing. Many MBA programs allow you to proceed at your own pace. That means that the faster you complete your coursework, the quicker you receive your degree.
Cost. Not only is distance learning typically less expensive than a traditional program, but comparable financial aid is now becoming available, as well.
Benefits of On-Campus Learning
Interactivity. No matter how great your online classes are, they won't be able to match the face-to-face interaction with colleagues and instructors that you get in a classroom setting.
Contacts. Let's face it-it's often easier to network and develop important professional relationships in person.
Respectability. The world is changing, but not as fast as we might like it to, and a small number of employers will still look at a degree earned online as less respectable and valuable than the more traditional route.
What to Know Before Choosing an Online Program
Accreditation. Beware of degree mills, those businesses that simply sell degrees and provide either bogus coursework or none at all. Make sure your school is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, and check with your Better Business Bureau or Attorney General's office to see if any complaints have been filed against the school.
Faculty. Find out who will be evaluating your work, what degrees they hold, and where they gained their experience. Schools should make this information easy to obtain.
References. Ask the school for the names of some recent graduates, and then find out how satisfied they were. No one will know better what you're likely to get from a school than those who've gotten it themselves.
The Middle Path
More and more established universities are beginning to offer "blended education," which combines coursework in a traditional classroom with an online component. This can be an ideal option for students who want occasional interaction but don't want to head to the classroom several times a week.
The important thing to remember is that there are different methods for earning your MBA, and any one of them can get you the education and qualifications that you need. So take the time to find the best option for you.
The full version of this article originally appeared in Hobsons' MBA Guide.
Tom Zeit is a freelance writer and former magazine editor in Cincinnati whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications.