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Online MBA Trends | The Changing Landscape After COVID

Since 2018, regular MBA programs have witnessed a 70% application decline. 

William Boulding, dean, Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, states that: 

In the wake of COVID-19 travel restrictions, social distancing, and the tenacity of the coronavirus, many campuses have closed doors.

Consequently, many business schools have embraced online learning.

A 2020 report by the Graduate Management Admission Council reveals that top business schools increased online enrolment by 67%. 

Many young professionals have little earning power to raise enough fees for a regular MBA. Others can’t leave their full-time jobs for a two-year, on-campus commitment.

66% of students today prefer distance learning to the traditional classroom. Its flexibility beats the constraints of money, time, and physical location.

Today, you’ll learn more about the online MBA and its impact in a post-COVID world.

MBA Trends in 2020

The Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) admits that the traditional full-time MBA is declining.

In 2017, US business schools witnessed an average 48% decline compared to 2018, especially international students.

The following report is from 767 interviewed graduate program correspondents:

  • 32% of the correspondents have reported a significant decline, at 21%.
  • 17% have reported a moderate decrease of 11–20%.
  • 19% have reported slight reductions of 1–10%.

Contrarily, the online MBA is on the rise. A 2019/2020 GMAC report states that of the programs interviewed, 90% admitted that their applicant pools went up by at least 24% compared to a year earlier.

The hiring trend also shows demand for online MBA students. GMAC indicates that before COVID-19, 92% of organizations wanted to hire MBA graduates. This fell to 89% during wave I and 77% during wave II. It went back up to 89% in 2021.

These trends show a rising acceptance of an online MBA degree in the industry, especially during the global pandemic. This also owes to the affordable nature and flexibility of an online program.

Enrollment Trends in 2020

Top business schools witnessed an explosive influx of prospective students, including those who wanted to continue their business school journey during the pandemic’s lockdown. 

The Indiana University’s Kelley School experienced a 64% increase in uptake over the last year alone. The Jack Welch Management Institute also saw an 84% rise (from 3,103 to 5,321 in the past year).

Between 2018 and 2020, Washington State University saw an 89% rise (from 614 to 1,159).

Brooke Elliott, the senior associate dean of online programs at the Gies College of Business (University of Illinois), ties the rising number of applications at the university to intake flexibility.

By allowing students to enroll five times per year, they saw a 75% intake surge last year. This program has moved from zero to 4,000 students between 2016 and 2020.

Is An MBA Still Relevant In 2021

GMAC business school data shows that applicants increasingly adopted online programs in the 2019–20 admissions cycle.

Gies online MBA program, for instance, reported 2,400 new students in 2020. At the same time, they project a 30% annual uptake.

Conversely, traditional MBAs are facing a crisis. Between 2018 and 2019, the top business schools in the US saw an average 5.9% application deadline (53,907 from 57,311). 

The table below shows the decline in regular MBA application among major universities in 2018-2019:

Business schoolPercentage decline
Yale’s School of Management15.6
Duke Fuqua14.6
Dartmouth College22.5
Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania)5.4

Andrew Ainslie (associate dean, Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester) predicts that 10 to 20% of top US MBA programs will close in the next few years. The Gies College of Business, for example, has already shut down its full-time MBA program.

Flexible and personalized learning options are inevitable drivers of change. Institutions must equally adopt technology, data analytics, and institutional collaboration. 

Quantic’s innovative online MBA program helps learners grasp their lessons by collaborating with other students or reaching out to our strong alumni network. 

Our candidate database of homegrown candidates is a comprehensive network with the right candidate for your organization’s future.

How Online Learning Failed During The Pandemic

A few months into COVID-19, the world saw the largest experiment with virtual communication. 

Unfortunately, many students have struggled with isolation and lack of resources. 

In the second quarter of 2020, several countries estimated that students lagged by up to 6 months in their typical academic milestones.

The results of the global shift as a result of the coronavirus pandemic can be disastrous. Academic progress has been on the line, which has affected other success components of life for many learners. 

Online MBAs During COVID

2019 presented a 50% application boost for online MBA programs. This statistic rose to 84% in 2020, the highest across any degree type. 

However, more people still desire in-person contact alongside an online education experience. 

According to OneClass, 75% of the 1300 students interviewed indicated that pure online teaching doesn’t meet their expectations.

Online MBAs after COVID

COVID-19 has shown the world just how archaic a traditional MBA program can be. Executives and employees were forced to learn new rules that solved business problems in real-time. 

As many schools plan to reopen when the coronavirus pandemic wanes, there is a growing affection for hybrid programs. This type of program is the perfect blend between the flexibility of an online program and a physical campus experience.

GMACs director of industry insights, Rahul Choudaha, explains: 

Another method schools are using to navigate the time/financial challenges posed by COVID-19 is using certificates, which provide an alternative to the intense, 2-year MBA program. 

Students can concentrate on specific areas of concern within a shorter time, then get certified for that.

Some schools offer specialized online MBA programs in marketing etc. These are courses programmed with qualities that are partly degree and partly certificate. This is different from the traditional MBA, which comes with 50% credits that students don’t prefer. 

Best MBA Programs For The Future 

Future business leaders will be required to package a digital mindset alongside an acumen for data-driven decisions, continuous learning, and critical thinking.

In the GMAC Corporate Recruiter’s Survey, 2 in 3 recruiters agree that managing tech disruption is the most essential skill. This includes remote team administration and supporting an organization’s digital strategies.

Over 50% of the respondents agreed that strong communications skills, the ability to innovate, an adaptable mindset, and strategic thinking are crucial to career survival after COVID-19.

To choose an online MBA specialization, please consider the following:

  • Know your interests: Ask yourself crucial questions that will help you align to an online MBA specialization that meets your core interests.
  • Consider your career path: Make a sound decision that will assist your career pursuits.
  • What are your strengths? Choose a program that leans toward them.
  • Specializations: Find out the specialties and subspecialties you’ll benefit from.
  • Cost: Match the program with your financial ability.
  • Duration and Schedule: How long does the program take? Consider the number of weekly study hours, and whether the program requires physical attendance, or has a flexible, distance-learning option.

Below is a list of top online MBA programs, with their corresponding specialization features.

Quantic is your go-to choice for your online MBA needs. Our rigorous program gives high-potential learners new skills for leadership and management. We also help our students network with top achievers from the best companies around the globe.

Online MBA Rankings 2021

The post-COVID world has made online learning a solid alternative in these uncertain times.

Today, students want the benefits of a physical network, motivation, and an active learning lifestyle, while enjoying the flexible schedule of distance learning. 

Quantic’s programs are readily accessible, with an online MBA application volume that combines that of all the top 10 US business schools. We also have a well-distributed global representation across 119 countries.

Our students love the affordability, high caliber network, and convenience of our programs. 

Our interactive approach to remote learning augments social practice. This helps you keep your job, and study on a flexible schedule that helps increase your earning power.

Our accredited, app-driven curriculum enables interactive self-study. Our online case studies align with online and in-person meetups in partner sites around the globe. 

Apply today to begin your online MBA career journey with us.


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