Hybrid MBA Programs: A Cheaper Executive MBA?

by Vault Education Editors | July 06, 2010

  • My Vault

Last week, The Wall Street Journal published an article about the increased interest in "Hybrid MBA" programs that offer up to 70 percent of their classes online. These programs are a way for professionals to earn an MBA without having to travel back and forth (as they would for an EMBA) or leave the workforce for two years. The other appeal of these hybrid MBAs is that they often come with prestigious names, such as Duke, Babson and UC Irvine, which will help students get "hyperpromoted."

Happy Hybrid MBA student studying at home while in business schoolAlthough the hybrid MBAs include group work via conference calls, Skype messages and blog forums, prospective students worry that they are missing some of the "most valuable part[s] of an MBA": "face time with faculty", "personal interaction between other students" and "access to faculty or campus resources, like career services." But rather than compare the hybrid MBA to a traditional, full-time MBA, try comparing it to an executive MBA program. Most EMBA classes consist of mid-career professionals who aren't interested in a career change, so career services tends to overlook them--whether they're on campus or not. The second and perhaps largest difference is cost: hybrid MBAs usually cost as much as a traditional, full-time MBA but less than EMBA. If your company isn't sponsoring your EMBA, the cost can be outrageous. Not only are you potentially flying across the country (or the Atlantic) every weekend, but because companies pay many students' way, tuition is higher than most part-time and full-time MBAs. So if you're considering an MBA to be promoted within your current employer but that employer isn't likely to pay for an EMBA, a hybrid is a viable alternative.

Finally, I want to draw your attention to recent studies that have shown that a combination of brick-and-mortar and online classes is the most effective learning style. Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote about the increase of hybrid education and its potential success:

A found that, in fact, students performed better in online learning environments than face-to-face, and even better than that when the two were combined. The study added that online learning inspires students to perform more self-study, which can be more enriching than your standard classroom structure.

My blog post was actually talking about the potential for online classes to help universities manage costs during the recession while still offering high-quality teaching. Hybrid MBAs cost less for business schools to run (with minimal startup costs) than their brick-and-mortar counterparts (they're not just saving money for students!). That said, when choosing a hybrid MBA program, it's important to consider the prestige of the business school overall. A hybrid degree from Duke's Fuqua School of Business will be much more valuable than one from a school that only has a hybrid MBA program and no full-time MBA. So a hybrid MBA is a great addition to a school's MBA programs, not a replacement. Much like a hybrid MBA is a great addition to a resume, but not one that will take your career in a totally different direction.

Filed Under: Education

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