A student in jeans looking at a tablet with an online MBA program

How Clemson transformed its MBA program for the age of online learning

A quick look inside Clemson University’s innovative online MBA program

Clemson University has long offered an on-campus MBA program, but starting this fall, the South Carolina-based school is placing its bets on something a bit different: an ambitious new version of the program that will allow students to access the same curriculum virtually through online learning. And while taking classes online is certainly no new feat, Clemson is hoping its new online MBA program will stand out.

Lectures will be available to live stream and to watch in a pre-recorded format, features that give students much more flexibility in this day and age. However, the program isn’t just the same old one made available through a different format. “It utilizes many digital components and instructional design learning supplements that give remote students a complete Clemson MBA experience,” explains Dr. Greg Pickett, the school’s director of MBA programs. Among those features: the ability for students to submit questions to their professors and participate in classroom discussions in real time, send follow up questions, and much more.

To make the program better suited for the online format, Pickett explains that Clemson oversaw a two-year effort to create it, integrating technology and then strenuously testing and making adjustments to course content in order to get everything just right.

Making an appeal to busy students

Clemson hopes the program will appeal to students who are looking for a more flexible format, and particularly ones who need a part-time option.

Related: The single biggest mistake universities make when going online

To back up the desire for such a platform, the school cites a Learning House survey showing 67 percent of students saying they use mobile devices to complete coursework. Because courses can be streamed in real time or accessed later on, students are better able to fit them into their busy schedules.

“Learning digitally is a natural choice for many students and it is especially true for working professionals,” Pickett noted when the program was first announced last year. “More and more students are seeking to consume their education conveniently and in a manner with which they are familiar. MBA Online gives them a choice to show up electronically to ask questions when the class is scheduled or to learn class content at 2 a.m. from a location they choose.”

The school also hopes to double enrollment in its overall MBA program, a rather ambitious goal during a time in which other MBA programs have struggled. “We read about the demise of the full-time MBA, but we’re not experiencing that in this market,” Pickett told Greenville Business last fall. It’s exactly the approach the university thinks it needs at this time and it’s something that falls outside the traditional approach of expanding classroom sizes.

Campus support & access to traditional MBA benefits

MBA Online ensures that students can take advantage of the support and benefits the on-campus program provides, including access to more than 600 mentors, opportunities to participate in seminars and industry events, and the chance to study abroad. Also available online will be access to orientation, faculty, and career services.

Flexibility in course options

Not only does the new program give students the ability to be flexible in terms of attending courses from the comfort of their own homes or elsewhere, but it also provides flexibility in the courses they’re able to take. Along with the school’s specially developed MBA coursework, students will also be able to choose from a number of electives such as global leadership, creativity in business, and project management–all of which can also be taken online.

Related: Higher ed: We are missing the boat in online learning

Continuing on a course of success

Despite citing its need to evolve into the virtual space, Clemson has a solid track record of success with MBAs. The school was ranked as the top-ranked business school in 2018 by College Choice and cites its 95-percent job placement rate for graduates. Over the past six years, Clemson has more than doubled the size of its business degree programs at Greenville ONE, its state-of-the-art facility located off the site of its main campus.

At a time in which applications to MBA programs in the U.S. have slid for the fourth consecutive year—the most recent of which was in 2018 (according to the Graduate Management Admission Council)—Clemon’s new approach is perhaps not just helpful to busy students in this day and age, but possibly critical to ensuring the future success of MBA programs overall.

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