Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business is becoming the latest business school to jump into the online education business as it enrolls the first class for a FlexMBA program that will begin in August.
Tepper’s three-year program, which will be conducted partially online and partially in person, offers the same faculty and curriculum—and the same admission and graduation requirements—as its highly regarded full-time and part-time MBA programs. It follows similar programs at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Students who enroll in the FlexMBA program will be able to enter either the traditional part-time or full-time MBA programs at Tepper after the first year if they choose, says Robert Monroe, director of the FlexMBA.
The first set of acceptance letters for the initial round of applications recently went out to applicants. Monroe expects to have from 30 to 60 students in the first class. Although the school will cap the program’s attendees at 60, it will accept fewer students if applicants do not show they are qualified.
Those who enroll in the FlexMBA will spend five weekends with their classmates on the Tepper campus in Pittsburgh, as well as in New York and Silicon Valley. In-person meetings will include classes, workshops, leadership coaching, and career development. In between, students will spend six weeks participating in online education, which will include live classes, video, readings, and exercises.
Professors will determine the best use of technology based on the nature of the courses they are teaching. For example, students in the negotiations class might negotiate with one another via e-mail or Skype, says Monroe.
“We’ve come up with all sorts of neat ideas to meet the same objective but take advantage of the new technology,” he says. Professors are hoping to use the knowledge gained from operating the new online program to improve the other MBA programs at Tepper, he says.
Students who enter the program in 2013 will pay $118,080 for all three years, which is the same price as Tepper’s part-time MBA program but nearly $25,000 more than the UNC online program, MBA@UNC. They will also pay their own transportation expenses for each of the five on-campus weekends, though the school will provide hotels, meals, and shuttles during their stay.
While prospective students remain concerned about how employers and others might view their participation in an online program—many of which are considered sub par when compared to brick-and-mortar courses, Tepper promises to deliver the same rigorous education.
Ultimately, Tepper wants to embrace technology and reach more students with this degree, says Monroe. “We really see this as part of the future of MBA degrees,” he says. “Clearly, we want to be part of the trend.”