For-profit schools, particularly large online colleges like the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University, have garnered a tremendous amount of attention in recent years, writes Brian Burnsed at usnews.com.
Efforts made by some schools in the online sector are going seemingly unnoticed as high profile schools seek to reach more students through aggressive advertising campaigns and politicians continue to push for more stringent industry regulations.
Accreditation is not given to for-profit schools by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), who many in the academic community consider to be the benchmark for business school quality.
However, many traditional business programs accredited by the AACSB have made the push into online learning in recent years.
The smattering of online M.B.A. programs offered by brick and mortar schools today represents a genesis of business schools adopting online programs, not the peak, school officials note.
"[Other schools] are trying to find out how we do what we do," says Terrill Cosgray, executive director of Kelley Direct—the online program established by the University of Indiana's Kelley School of Business that admits more than 200 students a year.
"It appears there are a lot of programs that are exploring the option of an online program."
It is maintained by online program officials that student admissions is as stringent as it would be at on-campus institutions. Occasionally, compared to the traditional on-campus M.B.A. programs, some online programs admit a lower percentage of applicants, writes Burnsed.
"Additionally, these programs are typically taught by the same professors who teach on-campus classes, in an effort to keep the academic standards and rigor of online programs on par with those of the traditional ones, school officials maintain."
The University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School launching its first ever online M.B.A. program this fall. The University held back from investing in online learning, feeling that they should wait for the technology to be proved to able to match their on-campus courses.
"The quality of the students, faculty, and curriculum will remain the same—what will be different is how we deliver it," says Kenan-Flagler spokesperson Allison Adams. "We can we do this well now thanks to technological advances."
There are a considerable amount of top schools, however, who firmly believe that online learning is drastically insufficient when compared to face-to-face learning. Harvard Business School, for example, does not have an online program and maintains that is has no plans to install one.
"Harvard Business School uses the case method—a discussion-based approach to teaching and learning. It requires people to be together discussing the details of the case and talking back and forth presenting different points of view. The interaction between participants is a critical element of the learning process and technology has not yet advanced to a stage where it is possible to replicate that interaction at the scale needed for a robust case discussion."
"Although we certainly recognize the increase in popularity and availability of online M.B.A. programs it is not a consideration for Harvard Business School because of the nature of our teaching pedagogy," the school said in a statement.