Online MBAs are tempting for those who want an opportunity to attend school from home. With well-known, traditional universities now offering MBAs as an online option, online degrees are just as appealing to potential employers as those earned by people who battled traffic to get to campus. But what are the downsides of earning an online MBA? Are you missing out on connections for jobs and recommendations, and will your hours of saved commute time cost you hours in extra homework?

How Online Degree Plans Work
Similar to in-person degrees, you'll start out by constructing a degree plan for your major out of the available courses. Depending on how close you are to the home campus, this can be done either by phone or in person.

The times offered by professors to take tests often varies - anywhere from two to 24 hours. Thus, you will need to know ahead of time what those time windows are, so you can adjust your work schedule suitably. Even with these time restrictions, online and distance students have many freedoms that in-class students don't.

Many potential students believe that the best connections to be made on campus are the professors. On the contrary, peers are often a much more valuable (and trustworthy) source for job leads, references and business collaborators.

Online Study Alternatives
There are ways to fill your online degree with in-person contact that fits within the rest of your schedule. You can combine both experiences by taking online and in-class courses. When online degrees are offered by traditional campuses, you can often take some of the courses in person, as well. The amount that you integrate your degree is up to you. The key to an effective education plan is to choose the in-person class that either has a professor that you've heard a lot about, interactive segments that you'll enjoy or a course in which you believe you may need more hands-on instruction.

Another option is to choose a school that's close to home. That way, you can still see guest lectures, join student clubs and go to career counseling sections. If there is more than one university with an MBA program in a 45-mile radius of your home, call to learn more about each.

Sample questions to ask can include:

  • What kinds of internship and career opportunities are available to your graduates?
  • How will your program help me to get these opportunities?
  • How interactive are professors with internet students?
  • Will I be able to graduate in three semesters with my chosen degree?

Make a point to meet with your professor by phone or in person at least once. In an arena dominated by e-meetings, phone calls or face-to-face meetings help you to stand out from the other students. The extra interest you show by doing this will help when you need additional assistance in the course or if you want a reference letter once the course is completed.

Join networking groups to make up for the lack of interpersonal interaction. On-campus and off-campus groups are available and vary in makeup, including honor societies and leadership organizations. This will give you the chance to make the connections you want in an atmosphere that is dedicated to both learning and networking in your field.

Taking Your Work Home with You
As a final consideration, when professors and students don't have a chance to discuss topics in class, it is likely that written discussion responses will be required, in order to make up for in-class participation. While an in-person discussion may involve five to 10 minutes of participation, it would be easy to break the 20 to 40 minute mark comprising and proofreading a discussion response. Add to that any rebuttals or counterpoints fellow classmates may have, and you're looking at hours of potential writing time. Before choosing online learning as your medium, ask about time commitments involved.

The Bottom Line
Online MBAs are not for everybody. You will have to commit to the possibility of more work in online discussions to make up for class time, and find ways to interact with your professors and your peers for homework help and networking purposes. But if you choose a school that's close by to take advantage of on-campus functions and organizations, you can go to school in your PJs and throw on a business suit when needed.

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