CHAPEL HILL – MBA@UNC, the online MBA offered by the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, has been ranked among the best in the nation by various publications.
But its students certainly aren’t limited to this nation. UNC Kenan-Flagler has had students attend class from aircraft carriers, while fighting pirates in Africa, on deployment in Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, from Manhattan, even from an oil rig.
“We even had a student one time attend class while she was in labor in the hospital,” Dean Doug Shackelford of UNC Kenan-Flagler says in the accompanying video. “It’s pretty easy to come to class.”
Similarly, faculty are scattered as far as India, Spain and Greece.
The online MBA is quite popular – from an original group of 19 students, it’s grown to almost 1,000 students currently, with over 1,000 graduates, and Shackelford thinks it can continue to grow.
But class size is deliberately limited to 15 students – the students and the professor’s faces all appear on the screen during class.
“We call it the Brady Bunch,” Shackelford says, referring to the opening credits of the 1960s sit-com.
The online MBA maintains the same admission standards, same quality faculty and same credit hours to graduate as the residential program, he says. Students are working professionals from diverse industries, though the largest single group is engineers. The most popular class time is 9 p.m. to midnight – after the kids are in bed.
Students watch professors’ lectures online on their own time.
“Then when we come to ‘class,’ it’s more like a small seminar,” Shackelford says. “It is an extremelyintense classroom – we talk about there’s nobody sits on the back row, ‘cause there is no back row…. It’s the most intense classroom I’ve ever taught in, because every student’s engaged.”
The delivery system isn’t what makes the difference in a quality education, Shackelford says.
“The relevant issue is how good are your faculty, how engaged are your students, those sorts of things. The delivery system that we use in our programs – that just simply enables us to reach students without them having to come to Chapel Hill,” he says.
“Previously if you wanted a degree from UNC, you had to come to Chapel Hill. Now we can take Chapel Hill to you.”
Though many early online course offerings were initially set up as second-tier “B” versions of residential classes, “We chose never to compromise on anything – so, same quality in every regard,” Shackelford says. “I keep saying there is no program like it – I think it’s the best there is.”