Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Online MBA 2012

Let’s start with the obvious; if you have any interest in earning an MBA, you either mean to improve your value to your company, to increase your potential for pay and position, or both.  Let’s be clear – if you earn an MBA worth anything, you will be considered for jobs which pay well and carry great responsibility, but where you will be expected to produce great value for your employer.  So if you want to pursue an MBA, you need to make sure that it will expand your skill set, and suit your personal career path.

Before discussing the Online MBA, I want to be clear about the three basic kinds of MBA (not how they are earned).  The most common MBA is the basic operational MBA, where business theory is the main focus.  Another type is the Executive MBA, which is designed to groom fast-track performers for C-suite responsibilities.  The third type, and the newest, is the Professional MBA, a type meant for candidates with management experience, who want to augment practical knowledge and enhance cross-team performance.  That third type offers a bridge between low- and mid-level management positions to senior leadership, and also provides a means for working professionals to raise their educational credentials.  The professional MBA curriculum is also based far more heavily on practical experience than on simple theory.  And the best Online MBA programs are focused on these working professionals, who not only represent the widest and deepest demographic for potential MBA candidates, but whose contributions provide the most realistic appraisal of business and management theories.

Therefore, you should not consider earning an MBA online if you have just finished your undergraduate studies; you would do better with a face-to-face program where you are totally immersed in theory and can develop the necessary people skills on campus.  Similarly, the Executive MBA candidate is not advised to pursue an Online MBA, in part because of course selection but also because the Executive MBA program includes vital Networking opportunities.  The Online MBA, however, is very effective for the professional MBA program, because working professionals already have developed people skills, they need to be able to work and study in a manner that is most time-efficient and which produces the most business value. 

This brings us to what Online program to choose.  Essentially, your choice should follow three factors – what will a potential employer look for, what skills do you need or want to add to your set, and what combination of price, convenience and standards are most comfortable for you?  This is where my rankings come in.  I’m not telling anyone where to go to school, but the list and the considered factors may be useful in your own decision.  Accreditation, tuition, number of concentrations, average GMAT score, student to faculty ratio, and similar elements can help you find the best fit for your decision.   

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Top 25 Online MBA Programs 2012

Every year since 2008 I have posted my opinion of the Top 25 Online MBA programs. I determine these rankings by a weighted system which uses information from the schools’ websites and the AACBS (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), which is the premiere accreditation agency for business schools, both in the United States and the world. With no disrespect intended for schools which are not members of the AACSB, in my opinion that designation sets apart the serious programs from the run-of-the-mill schools. This year the number of AACSB-  accredited schools is down to 92 which offer an MBA degree with all or nearly all classes online; some of the schools require an on-campus orientation, a foreign trip to a profiled nation, or a very few selected courses to be taken on campus, such as case competitions. My ranking uses a weighted evaluation of fifteen categories of information, with weighting based on criteria which will be of value to students in the quality of education and resources available to them, as well as cost and convenience.  In past years I put too much detail into explaining the categories, so this year I am trying to keep it simple. In this post I will simply announce the top 25 with a brief review of the factors considered in their scoring, and in subsequent posts I may comment on the Online MBA as compared to more traditional versions.

2012Top Online MBA Schools

1.     Nebraska at Lincoln (#4 in 2011, #5 in 2010) 
2.     Oklahoma State (#7 in 2011, #25 in 2010) 
3.     Alabama (#14 in 2011, #8 in 2010) 
4.     Fayetteville State (#12 in 2011, #13 in 2010)
5.     Mississippi State (#11 in 2011, unranked 2010) 
6.     North Dakota (unranked 2010-11, #10 in 2009)
7.     Western Kentucky (#17 in 2011, unranked 2010)
8.     Massachusetts – Amherst (#6 in 2011, #17 in 2010)
9.     East Carolina (#18 in 2011, unranked 2010)
10. Florida (#1 in 2011, unranked 2010)
11. Texas – San Antonio (#15 in 2011, #23 in 2010)
12. Texas – Dallas (unranked 2010 and 2011, #11t in 2009)
13. Indiana – Bloomington (#13 in 2011, unranked 2010)
14. Wisconsin – Whitewater (unranked in 2011, #2 in 2010)
15. Wyoming (#10 in 2011, unranked 2010)
16. Wisconsin – LaCrosse (#25 in 2011, unranked 2010)
17. Morehead State (unranked 2010 and 2011, #7t in 2009)
18. Houston – Victoria (unranked 2011, #14 in 2010)
19. Louisiana – Monroe (#19 in 2011, unranked 2010)
20. Texas – Tyler (unranked 2009-2011)
21. Quinnipiac (unranked 2011, #11 in 2010)
22. Tennessee Tech (#20 in 2011, unranked 2010)
23. South Dakota (unranked 2009-2011)
24. Texas – Pan American (#24 in 2011, unranked 2010)
25. Southern Arkansas (unranked 2009-2011)

Weighting Categories

1. Average GMAT score (14.00%)
2. MBA in-state tuition (13.00%)
3. Minimum GMAT score (12.00%)
4. MBA out-of-state tuition (11.00%)
5. Number of available concentrations (9.50%)
6. Minimum Duration (8.50%)
7. Operating Budget (7.50%)
8. # Faculty FTE (6.50%)
9. Student/Faculty Ratio (6.00%)
10. AACSB Accreditations (3.50%)
11. Budget/Student (3.00%)
12. Student Body Size (2.50%)
13. Undergraduate in-state Tuition (1.50%)
14. Undergraduate out-of-state Tuition (1.00%)
15. Degree levels offered

A Quick Word on Factors and Weights

This list of ranks is not meant to tell you where you should go to school.  It’s meant to offer a guide of schools which generally should provide a quality education and expand your skill set, at reasonable cost and with appropriate resources.  The school best suited for your career growth will need to meet your personal goals and provide support and opportunity where you choose.  The online MBA, for example, is a degree suited far better for the working professional seeking to expand an extant skill set rather than an inexperienced person who just finished their undergraduate studies.  As a result, you don’t need your hand held by having face access to your professor, but you should get timely and substantive answers to emails and class discussions.  You don’t need to schmooze in a student lounge with classmates, but you should have the means to make contact with other MBA candidates and quickly assess suitability for virtual teams on projects and for your case competition team.  You will expect to work independently, but you will still need access to timely resources to support research and develop your reports.  Most of all, you need to be able to tailor your MBA to meet your career goals, including competitive work with and against fellow students with superior abilities and intellect.  These rankings are meant to identify the schools which most effectively offer a package suited to such goals.

Good luck.

Monday, December 17, 2012

On Evil

We are all still in shock, I think, from the terrible events in Newtown, Connecticut.  When such things happen, in places like this board it is inevitable that those tho do not believe in God will take the moment to mock Him.  But I see it differently.

Evil has been here for as long as we have been here.  Just in our own history, we have learned much, too much, about rape, slavery, murder, genocide, and countless terrors of a dismal variety throughout human history.  While we sometimes hear how we have 'advanced' and 'evolved', still from time to horrible time we are forced to witness the depths to which men may sink.  Surely we must admit that evil exists.

Fortunately, we also know that good exists.  The very day of those awful murders, I watched on television as some children were able to smile a bit, play with each other, and reassure their own parents.  And for all the horror we have experienced, we have also been able, most of us, to be reminded the precious value of our family and children.  We have relearned something of community, and the fact that our neighbors, our nation, our humanity, still count in our hearts and minds.  Some good refuses to die, even in times like this.

I believe that God takes responsibility for evil, because it happens as a result of human free will.  We are allowed our freedom, and for that freedom to be real it must be allowed even when it leads to things like this.  No sermon here from me about how we could have prevented it, no lecture about how a deed here or a prayer there would have changed things  - we control some things, but none of us has that kind of power, however much we may wish we did.  God allows us to make choices of consequence, even when that consequence is terrible.  This is also why I believe there is a better place afterwards, where Time is something other than as we know it here, so that those children who went on ahead of their parents will be waiting for them as if it were mere moments they were apart.  God is good, and so has prepared a better resolution than the pain and torment we so often bring upon ourselves.  And it is that promise of reunion, and of safety in the permanent home which God offers to those parents whose pain would otherwise be impossible to bear.

I know some little bit.  When my daughter was an infant, on three occasions she fell ill with a very high fever which did not respond to medication.  The fact that she might be taken from us was a pain I do not like to remember, and I can only imagine how much worse the loss is for those families whose loss became their reality.  Platitudes and false hope are worthless in such a place and time, so I do not write these words casually, but with firm conviction and faith that my Lord will make solace known to these families.

The strange thing about evil, is that it is like pain.  No one touched by it is pleased, but it passes, even if it is sharp and cruel in its moment.  But we must be there for those suffering from evil, just as we would for a friend in pain.  It may seem small, but in such times there is great value in being there for each other, meeting every need in whatever we can, whether we have the word or are silent, whether we think we understand or recognize something beyond our ken.

Believers know God is our father, but when facing evil we do well to remember we are family to each other, all of us.