A Top 20 Pushes All-in for Online Education
The competitive dynamics and technology enablement of online education continue to take shape, with University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler as the first top-20 U.S. business school to offer an online program (entitled ‘MBA@UNC’) that itself says is fully equivalent to and indistinct from its traditional, bricks-and-mortar M.B.A. degrees. A short description of the program:
“…[S]tudents spend two years working through essentially the same core curriculum as their on-campus counterparts, though sometimes through documentary-style lectures posted online. The first crop of online students, the class of 2013, will take 20 courses, but they won’t be able to pick electives or concentrations as on-campus students.
Class discussions occur via Web cam. Students can raise their hand to talk just like they would in a regular classroom. For group projects, students link up via a similar program. At the end of most quarters — the school year runs over 12 months — the school will host face-to-face sessions in various cities, starting in Chapel Hill in December. Students must attend at least two sessions.”
Two more interesting things of note:
- The price for the program is $89,000 for two years needed to earn the degree, which is just shy of the traditional program’s $98,000 price for nonresidents. It seems that this price will have to come down as the program matures, particularly if UNC wants to expand beyond the 19 students it has in its first MBA@UNC class. And with the investment made by the school and its technology partner, it seems it will need to do so to generate any kind of meaningful return.
- It will be interesting to watch the education technology industry niche that develops to support these online-driven programs. The article notes that 2tor (www.2tor.com), the start-up that helped North Carolina design and implement the MBA@UNC program, has invested more than $10 million in the effort. From an investment perspective, we suspect that these companies will remain speculative for quite a while, but the “creative destruction” they bring to the education world will be fascinating to watch.