The new program will offer students more flexibility while maintaining high standards.
Sep 8, 2015
Florida Southern is preparing to expand its online education in dramatic fashion by offering an MBA degree in January that will be earned almost entirely through online courses.
The new online MBA option is an exciting development for the Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise because it will offer students more flexibility while maintaining the same high standards as the existing MBA program, said Dr. Charles DuVal, assistant professor of finance, who is in charge of the program.
Currently FSC offers an accelerated “hybrid” 16-month program to purse an MBA. DuVal said the online option will allow students to pursue the degree at a slower pace with the kind of flexibility that working professionals need.
“The 16-month hybrid program is very popular, but it requires students to take three courses at a time during three of the four semesters, which is very intense. The online program will allow students to take a couple of courses at a time, and it should reach a different market,” he said.
DuVal called the new option a “blended” approach, with mandatory campus visits at the beginning of the program for orientation and at the end of each semester for exams, presentations, and consultations with professors. But the remainder of the instruction and coursework will be done entirely online. He said it is a design that has worked well at some of the most prestigious schools in the country.
Some elective courses are already available online for the 16-month hybrid program, leading to specialized certificates in supply chain and healthcare management.
Because of the mandatory campus visits, most students likely will live within 100 miles of Lakeland, and the program does not anticipate many students outside Florida. DuVal said he hopes to start with at least 10 students in the online option in January.
The quality of students in the MBA program at the Barnett School has been rising, with average scores on the GMAT exam increasing by 15 percent in the past year, and DuVal said the faculty is pleased with the students in the MBA programs.
Asked if FSC is facing competition from other colleges for students in the new online program, DuVal said the Barnett School is in a unique situation.
“As an AACSB-accredited school, for the price we are offering, we have the edge,” he said.
Another way that the FSC online MBA has an advantage is in pedagogical techniques used by the faculty. Seven of the nine faculty members in the program are pursuing special certification by the Online Learning Consortium, which has developed best practices to use in online education. Eventually, all faculty and courses in the online program will be certified by the consortium.
The techniques include structured rubrics on how to direct student discussions and postings and how to include articles and videos in instruction. The techniques have even improved the faculty’s traditional classroom instruction, DuVal said.
“I can’t tell you how excited we are. This is light years better than what we’ve done in the past,” he said. “We should be continuously improving on every front, and that’s what we’re doing here.
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