“I know that the education I got at University of Phoenix is not exactly equivalent to a premium MBA program from a school like Stanford or Harvard, but I do believe that I learned at least 80% of the exact same content for about 20% of the price.”
The Big Picture
Why did you choose to enroll at University of Phoenix to earn your online master of business administration degree?
I decided to get my MBA at University of Phoenix because it is a very well-known and established school. Plus, my father had taken some classes from University of Phoenix, so I thought I could trust the program. At the time that I applied to school, I was traveling a lot for my job, so it made sense to get my degree online because it offered greater flexibility than a traditional university would. I think my MBA will advance my career in marketing, and it seemed like a great opportunity to take advantage of my company’s tuition reimbursement incentive as well.
What were the benefits of earning an MBA degree online?
The biggest benefit to earning my MBA online was that I did not have to sacrifice my job for school. It was important to me to be able to continue working while I earned my degree. In short, I didn’t have the funds saved that would allow me to take 2 years off to go to an expensive brick-and-mortar campus.
Another significant benefit of earning my MBA online was that the format of my program taught me how to communicate clearly within the online environment. My current job involves Internet-based marketing, so it involves talking to people through the computer. My online MBA program familiarized me with the concept of communicating remotely with people through forums and e-mails. It was good training for the corporate world, where a lot of communication is accomplished through digital avenues.
What were some drawbacks to earning an MBA degree online?
Even though it was important to be able to communicate online, I felt that the main drawback to an online MBA was that it occasionally hampered my ability to understand what people were trying to say. For instance, in a classroom, you have the ability to sense the tone, pace or body language of a speaker. You don’t have that liberty in a digital environment, so it is more difficult to get a point across or to interpret another student’s point of view.
Another drawback of online schooling was that I sometimes experienced a significant delay when I was trying to get an answer from my professors. Some of them lived in other countries, and it was frustrating to have to wait an entire day to get their response when I needed a specific piece of information for my project.
What did you learn in an online MBA program?
In an online MBA program, you learn everything that you would in a traditional MBA program. At University of Phoenix, we took classes in human resources, finance, marketing and communications, among other things. For our final project, we wrote business proposals that involved the use of quantitative statistics and analysis. We were examined regularly on the knowledge we gained, and our capstone project required 18 months of work to complete.
I know that the education I got at University of Phoenix is not exactly equivalent to a premium MBA program from a school like Harvard or Stanford, but I do believe that I learned at least 80% of the exact same content for about 20% of the price. The bottom line is that your education is what you make of it. I managed to graduate with a 3.8 grade point average, but it took a lot of hard work to do that in my rigorous program.
How was the curriculum in your online MBA program at University of Phoenix presented?
The MBA curriculum at University of Phoenix was presented mainly through a discussion board format which relies very little on the efforts of the class facilitator. All of our learning material was posted through the discussion board, from what texts we needed to read to the questions we needed to answer. What it meant to attend class was to participate in online discussions several times per week. In truth, my facilitators seemed to do very little teaching. Instead of being teachers, they were more like forum moderators, since their main job seemed to be to facilitate online discussion through a class thread. We didn’t listen to lectures or watch presentations.
What kinds of academic resources did University of Phoenix provide to help you succeed in your education?
The University of Phoenix provided students with an online library and tutoring center. At the library, we had access to thousands of publications, including scholarly articles that you would have had to pay for otherwise. And the tutoring center offers help with subjects like math and writing, although if you were going to use those resources, you needed to be very disciplined in regards to time management since the review process took 2 to 3 days.
What kinds of computer skills were necessary to succeed in an online MBA program?
The most important computer skill to have in an online MBA program is familiarity with the Microsoft Office Suite. At the very least, you will need to know how to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint in order to write your papers and assemble presentations.
The University of Phoenix also had an app for people who have iPhones or iPads. You could download the app and it allowed you to attend class and participate. You also got pop-up notifications when your work had been graded. That was a nice feature for people who studied while they were on the go.
What were the credentials of your faculty?
Many of my faculty members had earned their doctorate degrees or had advanced professional certifications. For example, my finance facilitator was a CPA who had worked for some of the biggest firms around the globe. But they weren’t all natural educators, so every now and then you would find a professor who clearly was not investing nearly as much time into the class facilitation as another. I had a great teacher who I could tell spent several hours each day providing feedback for my class and putting her heart into giving useful feedback. But I had another teacher who would only post online every other day, and he offered feedback that seemed like it was copied and pasted. For instance, I got the exact same comments back on 3 different papers in that class. I could tell that teacher wasn’t very dedicated.
Can you describe your interaction with your professors?
Most of the interaction I had with my professors took place through the discussion board. There was also a private discussion board, in case you wanted to talk about something with the course facilitator privately. And if both parties were online at the same time, you could use instant messenger to chat. Every course facilitator also provided us with private phone numbers to use in urgent situations.
How did you fund your MBA program?
My program cost around $24,000 to $28,000, but I got some of my tuition reimbursed through my employer. I also borrowed some student loans, but I would discourage people from doing that, because they will be difficult to pay back later.
The Job Hunt
What kinds of career services did University of Phoenix provide to help you find a job after graduation?
University of Phoenix offers career services to all of its graduates via a website, but little help is available for masters level graduates.
Do you think that employers value an online MBA degree as much as an MBA from a brick-and-mortar school?
I would hope that having an MBA of any kind would impress an employer. At least, it should give me a leg up over somebody that doesn’t have any sort of advanced degree. I don’t think I will go out of my way to highlight the fact that I got my degree online in an interview, but it still enhances my resume overall.
Does an online MBA program allow you to network?
I think it is more difficult to network in an online setting than in a traditional degree program. You are not rubbing elbows with big names in the field. But I also didn’t have to quit my job or invest $100,000 into my program, so I think the relative lack of networking opportunities was worth it, for me.
What are your career goals?
My career goals are to continue in a similar area of work to what I am doing now, but for a bigger paycheck. I would love to be the director of marketing at my company or take on a project management role. Although I haven’t had a chance to shop around to see how a human resources manager will respond to my MBA yet, I assume that I should be getting at least another $10,000 each year as a result of having a higher education.
What advice can you offer students who are trying to decide if an online MBA program is right for them?
The first piece of advice I would offer is that prospective students need to be aware that an online MBA program is a big commitment that will challenge you in a number of ways. If you are working while you get your MBA, you may not get a decent night of sleep for 2 years. It is also very difficult to balance social obligations with the academic responsibilities that an MBA program demands.
Second, I don’t believe that anyone should go straight from a bachelors program into a masters program. The lack of real-world experience creates a huge learning disadvantage because you can’t really understand management concepts without the experience of trying to run a business. To understand the value of a lesson, you need to make mistakes. People straight out of college haven’t had the chance to make any yet.