“Prospective students can be sure that an online MBA program is legitimate by checking the school’s accreditation.”
The Big Picture
Why did you choose to enroll at Walden University to earn your online master of business administration degree?
I chose to enroll at Walden University to earn my online master of business administration degree because a graduate education had been a goal of mine for years. My father was a professor of finance and my mother had her masters degree in nursing, so getting an MBA was a way to prove to myself that I could carry on their legacies.
And Walden University seemed like it had the ideal MBA program for my learning style. I do not perform well on standardized tests, even if I know the material, so I was relieved to find out that Walden University did not require applicants to submit GRE scores. I also felt that the MBA program at Walden was designed well for people with busy schedules or students who need have alternative learning styles.
What were the benefits of earning an MBA degree online?
The biggest benefit of earning an MBA degree online, in my opinion, was the pace. Walden did not force students in my program to take 3 to 5 classes at a time and then expect them to keep up. Instead, we could take 1 course at a time and immerse ourselves in the class material.
The flexibility was another big benefit. In my experience, most people in my MBA program were working full-time or were slower learners who needed to work at their own pace. The online format accommodated everyone because it set very general deadlines rather than specific daily deadlines.
What were some drawbacks to earning an MBA degree online?
The only major drawback to earning my MBA online has been the response of employers and other professionals. The stigma of online education is still very strong, even if the online program has accreditation. Some employers I interviewed with after graduation had not even heard of Walden University. Nonetheless, I think that I learned just as much in my online program as I would have in an offline program.
A smaller drawback to getting an online MBA was how easy it was to procrastinate. At Walden, I typically received syllabi that listed all of the assignments and their due dates for courses. Nonetheless, if something like a home improvement project crept into my life, I was often tempted to put off doing my schoolwork.
How can prospective students be sure that an online MBA program is legitimate?
Prospective students can be sure that an online MBA program is legitimate by checking the school’s accreditation. In my case, Walden listed its accreditation on its website and I cross-checked that accreditation with several different resources to make sure that it was valid. I also noticed that all of the traditional universities local to me had the same accreditations as Walden, which is what ultimately reassured me.
What did you learn in your online MBA program?
In 2 years, my online program taught me to research, think critically, write well and absorb a great deal of information quickly. The most important skill that I learned was how to take in information, analyze it, and then write coherently about my insights without plagiarizing. That skill has enabled me to convey ideas and my own experiences more effectively.
My program also included a capstone project that challenged me to put all of my education from the past 2 years to work for me. I competed against students from all over the country in a simulated global marketplace to earn a certain score and pass the project. Although challenging, I learned how to put theories into practice and call upon all of my new knowledge, from marketing to finance, to achieve my goals.
How was the curriculum in your online MBA program at Walden University presented?
The curriculum in my online MBA program at Walden University was presented very simply. At the beginning of a course, I would receive all of my materials, including DVDs and books. Each DVD had someone called a course leader who would walk me through each step and assignment for the course, like a talking syllabi. Then I would watch the weekly lectures on the DVDs, do my reading and turn in 2 discussion papers each week, as well as comment on the papers of other students. Professors used these papers and the discussions surrounding them to determine participation grades. Some courses, like accounting and finance, also had online tests.
What kinds of academic resources did Walden University provide to help you succeed in your education?
The academic resources that Walden University gave me were incredible. I could go to an online library and find articles and e-books, and I could also go to local universities and use their libraries because Walden had agreements with them.
Walden University also had an introductory course at the very beginning of the MBA program that got me up to speed on online education and college work in general. It also reviewed several of the resources that I would be using, including Google and Ask.com.
What kinds of computer skills are necessary to succeed in an online MBA program?
The computer skills needed to succeed in an online MBA program like mine were basic. I think that students should know how to surf the web and use a browser, and also have a good sense of what information is or is not reliable. Likewise, I think that students should be relatively familiar with Microsoft Office programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Walden University also offered free tech support for students who struggled to use their computers and keep them functioning. If the site went down, or an upload would not go through, I could call the tech support number and get help from someone without having to wait for more than a few minutes.
What were the credentials of your faculty?
The credentials of the faculty in my MBA program were comparable to faculty at traditional institutions. All of my professors had their PhDs and were doing research, and most also had experience in their fields. Those who had worked for several years before getting their degrees brought tons of practical knowledge to the theories they were teaching me.
Can you describe your interaction with your professors?
Most of my interaction with professors occurred in the online discussion forums and over e-mail, and that seemed sufficient to me. I rarely felt the need to call professors on the phone, although some of my classmates did.
Initially, I worried that not seeing my professors face-to-face would hinder my ability to learn, but I quickly developed an appreciation for the online format. I could work at my own pace to understand their lectures and did not have to measure my performance against the rest of the class. To be honest, I think that I ended up absorbing and retaining more information than I would have working face-to-face with a professor.
How did you fund your MBA program?
I funded my MBA 1 class a time. Each credit hour cost around $700, and each course was typically 3 credit hours. That tuition fee included books, DVDs and access to the online resources.
Do you feel like you are getting your money’s worth?
Yes, in my opinion, I got a great value for my education because I did not have to commute or pay to live on campus. I could also take my education on vacation with me, which I did when my wife and I took a trip to Florida.
The Job Hunt
What kinds of career services did Walden University provide to help you find a job after graduation?
Although Walden University did have a career center, I was already well into my career and did not need it. However, I know that students in my program could set up appointments with people who would help them to refine their career goals, practice for interviews and draft resumes. I do not think that the career center had job fairs or brought in outside companies to recruit graduates.
Do you think that employers value an online MBA degree as much as an MBA from a brick-and-mortar school?
No, I do not think employers value an online MBA as much as an MBA from a traditional school. After I graduated, I decided to find a better job, but my interviewers often disliked my online degree or had not heard of Walden University. Because they did not have a good knowledge of online education, they had no foundation on which to build their assumptions about my competency for jobs.
In my experience, students can offset some of this poor reception by building contacts in their classes right away. Most people in online MBA programs already have careers and can be great resources down the road for job hunting.
Did an online MBA program allow you to network?
Yes, my online MBA program gave me tons of opportunities to network. I ended up connecting with more than 300 Walden classmates, all of whom remember me from class and know that I can perform well. Although we never met face-to-face, we are still able to help each other out professionally.
What are your career goals?
My career goals are to advance in my current field. At the moment, I audit ethics compliance at a company, and I recently joined an online auditing organization that I hope will bring me new opportunities.
What advice can you offer students who are trying to decide if an online MBA program is right for them?
I would advise students who are trying to decide if an online MBA program is right for them to consider easing themselves into their programs. Education at a big university or at the graduate level looks very different from high school and smaller undergraduate environments.
I also recommend that students look at an MBA as a marketable skill that will increase the value of their resumes. In my opinion, it is okay for students to get degrees in the fields that they love, but it also critical that their resumes reflect the skills that businesses need.