EDHEC Business, Michigan, POLIMI and More Top Schools Embrace Online MBA Programs

EDHEC Business, Michigan, POLIMI and More Top Schools Embrace Online MBA Programs

A wave of leading business schools worldwide is embracing the digital era by launching online MBA degrees, marking a shift in the perception and acceptance of virtual learning platforms within the business world. 

Traditionally, many top-tier business schools hesitated to introduce online MBA programs, fearing potential competition with their successful full-time residential courses. Concerns lingered about diluting the exclusivity and immersive experience of traditional MBA programs. 

However, recent program launches point to a shift, with an increasing acknowledgment that online and residential MBA programs can coexist harmoniously, catering to different student needs and preferences.

Emerging from skepticism

For example, EDHEC Business School – a highly-ranked institution based in France – has just launched a new fully online MBA. Students enrolled in the 24-month program, which will be taught entirely in English, will learn through EDHEC’s e-learning platform. 

The EDHEC Online MBA is part of a growing list of programs offered by EDHEC Online, the business school’s digital education business. Since its creation in 2018, EDHEC Online has used e-learning technology to create a range of professional certificates, masters degrees and MOOCs. Other schools around the world are also investing in online education. 

Patti Russo, managing director of part-time MBA programs at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, says: “People are becoming more comfortable with online learning. We also know people are interested in flexibility in pursuing their MBA, and they are interested in continuing to work and keeping their jobs.” 

Ross became the first top US business school to launch its online MBA program in 2019. 

Growing demand for flexible learning

The emergence of online MBA degrees from renowned business schools underscores a broader acceptance of online education in the business domain. This evolution is driven by several factors, including advancements in technology, changing student demographics, and the growing demand for flexible learning options among working professionals.

“Acceptance of online programs has certainly grown over the last two years. When we launched our online Flex EMBA in 2013-2014 we were pioneers, and encountered resistance from plenty of candidates and companies. Today, this is no longer the case and online training is increasingly widespread,” says Greta Maiocchi, the former Chief Customer Management Officer at POLIMI Graduate School of Management in Italy. 

The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst, since online learning was the only means of training and updating of knowledge and skills available until lockdowns ended. “The flip side of the coin is that this forced online activity has generated a strong interest in face-to-face formats,” adds Maiocchi. 

Nevertheless, she says: “Online education certainly remains a key option for those seeking maximum flexibility, and it is the basis for an ever-greater democratization of education.” 

Diverse approaches to digital education 

Despite this overarching trend towards embracing online education, business schools are adopting varied approaches in designing and delivering their online MBA programs. From curriculum structure to instructional methods and technological integration, each institution seeks to carve its unique niche in the digital education landscape.

“What many schools often underestimate is the amount of time, effort, and resources that go into creating robust and high-quality online learning experiences. This creates a natural barrier to entry,” says Rebecca Loades, director of career accelerator programs at ESMT Berlin, which launched its online MBA in 2021. 

“Furthermore, developing an online strategy needs careful thought and consideration, and – arguably – needs to be at the heart of institutional goals,” Loades says. “A last prerequisite is that faculty need to be engaged and prepared to adapt their teaching to a new modality.” 

Prospective students navigating this burgeoning market face the challenge of distinguishing between different online MBA offerings. Several key factors can aid in this process, including accreditation and reputation; curriculum and specializations; technological infrastructure and learning platform. 

“My advice is to look beyond the platform to the culture of the institution. Have they invested in an educational technology team? Are they open to taking risks and trying out new technologies and platforms? How are they ‘living’ their online teaching strategy?” asks Sarah Grant, associate director and head of operations for the Edtech Lab at Imperial College Business School in London. 

The school, which launched its online MBA in 2014, currently uses the insendi learning experience platform, which is a successful spin-out from the Edtech Lab at Imperial College Business School. The platform looks at how to reimagine teaching for online audiences – rather than how things are taught on campus. 

Navigating the online MBA options 

Other schools stress the importance of having strong connections and opportunities for networking in online learning environments. 

“An MBA is a professional degree focused on developing skills that are essential for senior management positions. There is a lot of tacit knowledge that needs to be developed during the program; exchanging experiences and working in groups to solve practical problems is an essential element to develop that,” says Paulo Prochno, assistant dean of part-time MBA and online programs at University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business, in the USA. 

While the proliferation of online MBA degrees from top business schools worldwide reflects a broader acceptance and integration of online education within the business domain, prospective students still need to make an informed decision taking into account these critical elements. 


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