Kaplan & Newsweek Offer Online MBA Program; Some Considerations

Kaplan University, a leading online institution of higher learning, and Newsweek, Inc., have announced the creation of the Kaplan University/Newsweek M.B.A Program. Stated Andrew S. Rosen, President of Kaplan University, “This new program will mean that our students — in addition to having access to Newsweek’s archives, multimedia presentations and weekly content — will be able to talk to reporters and editors to get in-depth and immediate insights into the events that are making news in the economy and the boardroom.”

Kaplan University’s online program has grown from 34 students in 2001 to more than 26,000 students in 2006 – similar enrollment numbers to the largest American universities. The new program will begin accepting students on September 25 and classes begin on November 15. So how did this partnership come about? Easy – Newsweek and Kaplan are both owned by the Washington Post Company.

Online MBA programs have been growing in popularity in large part due to the convenience of remote learning, substantially lower price tags and faster graduation times compared with traditional brick and mortar programs. For example, since starting an online MBA program in 1989, the University of Phoenix has reported year-to-year growth in excess of 50%. Yearly MBA enrollment now numbers about 16,000 students.

Despite this rapid growth, there is plenty to be skeptical about. In a Business Week article, Vicky Phillips, founder and CEO of GetEducated.com, a Web site that evaluates accredited online degree programs offers this word of caution “It’s [an online degree] an area that’s ripe for consumer fraud.” The Business Week article offers some great insights into how to evaluate various online programs, especially in regard to accreditation issues.

In addition to concerns from online students, traditional MBAs are beginning to ask questions as well. As more well-known business schools begin to offer online MBAs (and award online students the same degrees as full-time, on campus programs) students paying full-price are not happy. They argue that nothing replaces in classroom discussions and lectures. In particular, business schools often serve as a microcosm for real world office situations: learning to communicate and lead in a group environment – as well as to effectively deal with diverse classmates and tight deadlines is imperative to success in the real world. Online collaboration simply is not the same as in-person interactions.

While Online MBA’s certainly make learning more affordable the question is ’at what cost’? We invite feedback and comments!

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