Indiana University’s Kelley Direct online MBA has been named the MBA Program of the Year for 2020 by Poets&Quants
The class discussion is furiously fast-paced. The MBA students are debating how Levi’s, one of America’s most iconic brands, lost 43% of its market value as its marketshare plunged to 14% from nearly a third in just five years between 1996 and 2000.
Professor Rockney Walters questions to students are unrelenting. With more than 25 teaching awards to his credit, Walters has been teaching at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business for more than a quarter of a century. So his cold calls are especially penetrating.
“What do you think happened here?” he asks the class.
“Would you say they were obsessing over customers?”
“Twenty years later,” observes Walters in between the back-and-forth, “after Levis hit that stall and they still didn’t get out of it. So what does this tell you? What is the message here?
“What would have come before the losing part?” he asks.
27 MBA STUDENTS IN 27 DIFFERENT PLACES UNITED IN A SINGLE VIRTUAL CLASSROOM
If there is something surprising about the session, it’s that the 27 students in attendance are not in a single classroom. Instead, they are in 27 different rooms, homes and workplaces all over the world. They’re enrolled in Kelley Direct, the online MBA program at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.
If you were to close your eyes and just listen, you would never have imagined that the class was being delivered live over the Internet. Every student is called by first name and given air time. Some respond via chat. Others just speak out. Guided by Walters constant yet gentle prodding, there is plenty of opportunity for deep discussion and engagement, whether in the full class or the breakout rooms.
For Kelley Direct students, it’s just another hour and 15 minutes of class. But the lively session also proves that an online MBA program can be every bit as transformative as one in-person, and it is also reflective of the school’s commitment to deliver an MBA experience that is second to none in every possible way.
KELLEY DIRECT: MBA PROGRAM OF THE YEAR
For reinventing its long-standing online MBA program, and creating the flexibility and options more common to full-time residential programs, Poets&Quants is naming Indiana University’s Kelley Direct online option the MBA Program of the Year. The newest innovations make Kelley’s online offering the closest any student can possibly come to a full MBA experience, without the need to quit one’s job and be on campus for all the classes. No less crucial, Kelley Direct is at a highly affordable price for the full-featured program, far less than many rival programs that offer fewer options for long-distance students.
It is the first time that an online program has been named MBA Program of the Year by Poets&Quants. Kelley is just the fourth school to earn this now annual distinction. Last year, Washington University’s Olin School of Business was honored for its bold and radical revamp of the school’s full-time MBA experience. In years earlier, the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School won the honor for gaining STEM designation for its entire MBA program, the first to accomplish such a feat (see MBA Program Of The Year: Rochester’s New STEM Play). Simon’s lead has been followed by a bevy of other schools, including Carnegie Mellon and UC-Berkeley Haas. Cornell University’s Johnson School won our first MBA Program of the Year award for its highly innovative Cornell Tech MBA in New York City (see Program of the Year: Cornell Tech’s MBA).
Many online MBA programs feature canned video lectures with no live Internet classes. Some are taught by adjunct faculty and teaching assistants in classes that are not limited in size. The choice of electives or specialization is limited if they exist at all. Most often there are no in-residence sessions, no chance to visit campus to meet classmates and faculty face-to-face. Student clubs and organizations, a central feature of a full MBA experience, are not funded by the school. Global immersion trips are not an option. And while career support is often promised, it is seldom delivered in any meaningful way. If career coaching is available, it does not approach the kind of hand-holding that occurs in a full-time residential program.
AN INTEGRATED CORE. HALF THE MBA DEVOTED TO ELECTIVES. SEVEN MAJORS.
Ramesh Venkataraman guided the overhaul of the program as chair of Kelley Direct
None of that is true with Kelley Direct. The core of the school’s differentiation is its newly updated curriculum that allows online students to customize the program to their own career aspirations. The school doubled the number of electives that students can take, 24 credit hours from a dozen before so that fully half the program is given over to student choice, an innovative format that allows MBA candidates to dive deep into any one of seven majors, from business analytics and digital technology management to finance and marketing. Each of those majors average ten elective courses, not just a slim handful. Kelley Direct also boasts a signature integrated core curriculum experience, similar to the innovative integrative core in its highly ranked full-time residential MBA.
All of the online courses boast live class sessions on a weekly basis taught by professors who teach in the school’s in-residence programs, a significant departure from many rival options in which faculty pre-record their lectures. Every live class averages just 30 students so engagement and interaction is high. And then there are the pair of required in-person experiences dubbed Kelley Connect Weeks on the Bloomington, Indiana, campus built into the beginning and end of the Kelley Direct Online MBA program. Faculty create case studies specifically for these sessions and teams of online students present before executives who are protagonists in those cases.
The school also adopts another standard feature of full-time MBA programs: immersive experiences. There are opportunities to consult with small businesses in another country, work on an assignment with a Fortune 500 company, or take a well-designed professional development course. Kelley even offers its online students the chance for global experiential projects outside the country, a true rarity for an online option.
A Kelley Direct AGILE global immersion trip in Vietnam
EVERY STUDENT IS ASSIGNED A CAREER COACH
The learning culminates in an unusual focus on each student’s career. Every Kelley Direct student is assigned a career coach and has full access to the school’s formidable Graduate Career Center. Few full-time MBA programs invest as many resources into career management than Kelley. The upshot: More than 64% of Kelley Direct students are promoted while in the online MBA program or within six months of graduation. Poets&Quants‘ most recent survey of the programs’s alumni found that graduates report an average boost of 33% in their pay, a hefty $30,873 increase over pre-MBA compensation of $92,688 to $123,561.
Not surprisingly, given the extent of the school’s investments and commitment to innovation, Kelley Direct recently was named the world’s best online MBA program by Poets&Quants. Kelley also is tied for first in U.S. News‘ last ranking of the best online MBA options in the U.S. with MBA@UNC, the online MBA program at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. One of the biggest differences between those two programs, however, is price. Kelley Direct sports a $74,520 price tag, more than $50,000 less than MBA@UNC which now sets back students $125,589. No wonder, applications to the Kelley online MBA have soared by 64% over the last year.
The dramatic changes in Kelley Direct reflect increasing expectations in online learning, rising competition, and changing demands from the corporate world. “The marketplace is demanding depth in business programs,” explains Ramesh, who led the revamp as chair of Kelley Direct MBA & MS programs. “There have been a lot of tweaks on the curriculum but we hadn’t worked on a substantial revision for awhile. So it was time. As we looked at more competition coming into the landscape, we asked ourselves if we could actually do something to distance ourselves from the competition. That to me was the biggest motivation.”
ANTICIPATING A DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFT IN ONLINE MBA STUDENTS
Will Geoghegan, an award-winning professor at Kelley, is the new chair of Kelley Direct
To increase the program’s depth while retaining its flexibility for students to earn an MBA in as short as two years or as long as four required substantial changes to the curriculum. Every existing core course underwent a top-to-bottom revision, requiring that faculty focus on what is essential learning and what can be trimmed. It also meant that more content could be transmitted by leveraging technology. The result: Every core course is now two credit hours delivered over eight weeks instead of three over 12 weeks.
“By constricting that we didn’t have to eliminate any of the required content,” adds Venkataraman. “By opening up the electives, anything that gets left out of the core, people can pick up the depth in that area as they go along.”
Kelley’s program changes also anticipate a shift in the classic demographics of an online MBA. Traditionally, the school’s online program has drawn students with seven to nine years of professional work experience. Venkataraman, however, believes that more and more younger professionals will want to get their MBA degrees online, given the larger investment students must make to attend an in-residence, two-year program. “I believe what might start happening is that the time to enter an online program will start compressing,” he says. “More younger people will do it. We could become the substitute for people who would otherwise have picked a full-time program. Students are coming out of undergrad with so much debt they don’t want to quit their jobs so they are looking for other options to get their MBAs.”
A LIVE DYNAMIC DISCUSSION, BREAKOUT GROUPS, VIDEO LESSONS & TEMPLATES TO APPLY THE LEARNING AT WORK
At the end of the day, however, it’s all about the faculty’s commitment to online teaching. “A lot of work goes into setting up the class in advance, whether it’s trying to create discussion topics in breakout rooms or whether it’s trying to make it as pedagogically diverse as possible to make sure that students get that close connection through the exploration of the topic at hand,” says Will Geoghegan, an award-winning professor at Kelley who teaches strategic management online and is the new chair of Kelley Direct. “Technology has really evolved over the last five or 10 years, and the platform we currently use allows us to use things like polls and breakout rooms to really allow the students to get to know each other, work together and share their insights.”
Marketing Professor Rockney Walters brings more than a quarter of a century of teaching into the online classroom
Back in Walters’ class, the professor concludes his discussion on Levis with the primary reasons why successful companies often hit a wall and stall: 1) An absence of deep intelligence about value trends and inflection points in customer markets, and 2) An incomplete understanding of the competition and how they do business.
“This stalling and declining growth phenomenon is a big deal for firms,” says Walters, citing a study that found that 87% of all firms experience stalling growth. “In the ten years after the stall, firms lost 74% of their market cap relative to the S&P 500, and most CEOs lost their jobs after a stall. A majority of the firms failed to return to their previous top-line growth rates.”
“What would you want to know about your major competitors?” He asks the class.
Walters offers the class templates for analyzing competition, along with a competitor knowledge tool with 16 diagnostics. Next week’s assignment is to use the tool to help every student better understand the competition that their employers currently face. He then places the students into groups of four or five into breakout rooms to debate a Wall Street Journal article on Amazon with the headline “Amazon Scooped Up Data From Its Own Sellers To Launch Competing Products.”
Their break room assignment: “Was Amazon wrong in its use of supply data to help them compete more effectively? What actions would you take to maintain and grow your business?”
AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE REVOLUTION IN DIGITAL EDUCATION
When they return to the main virtual classroom, Walters cold calls another student.
“Eric, you start the ball rolling. What did your team conclude?”
It’s just another routine class but a glimpse into a best-of-class online experience. Some 22 years ago in 1999, Kelley was the first top-ranked business school to enter the online market. With its latest overhaul, the school has insured that it is at the forefront of the revolution in digital education.
The Best of 2020 at Poets&Quants
The post MBA Program Of The Year: Indiana University’s Kelley Direct Online MBA appeared first on Poets&Quants.