Online MBAs came from being marginalised to being respected and a viable option for business professionals and owners. The online MBA is a programme that adapts itself very well to online learning, and fits the lifestyle of entrepreneurs and managers wanting to gain the expertise they desire without skipping a beat. We should expect not only to see more online MBAs in the future, but more traditional MBA programmes integrating some sort of online learning component. Let’s take a look at why online MBAs could be the future of business education.

Online MBAs Could Eventually Become the Number One Option

Like it was hard to believe that MBAs would get this amount of recognition now, it shouldn’t be hard to envision a future where MBAs become the option of choice, especially if we consider international students with limited options who’d like to have access to a world class education. Not only is mobility greater than ever, but connectivity is as well, which makes collaboration easier.

According to Edtech lab director David Lefevre, the shift is already happening at this moment:

“These days, it’s the value of the traditional face to face programme that is questioned,” he said. “…there is a wide number of students that already work and collaborate together across time zones effortlessly. The blended approach is natural to them.”

Enrolment is on the Rise

The Financial Times found a significant increase in enrolment in their ranking of online programmes for 2016. The schools in the ranking, 15 in total, saw a 7% increase in enrolment on average. In addition, 5 more schools entered the rankings the next year, which reflects an increase in online offerings.

Many factors, some political, could be the reason behind that shift. For instance, the tightening of UK visa regulations is said to have had an effect on enrolment. Schools have also been more active in attracting overseas applicants.

Some of the other factors that contribute to this rise include:

  • Greater credibility of the degree among students
  • More recognition from industry
  • Advances in teaching technology
  • Better trained faculty
  • Lower costs

In some other parts of the world, online learning is also seeing an increase in demand, but for completely different reasons. Australia, for instance, has always been on the forefront of distance education, and online education is the perfect way for Australians living outside of urban centres to get access to not only the best Australian schools, but the best schools around the world. And while traditional distance learning always has its limits, online education is much more interactive.

Demand is Exceeding Supply

Not only are online programmes becoming increasingly popular, but schools are having difficulty keeping up. And this could become worse as this generation of digital natives are starting to enter college age. They will not only start to demand, but expect online options to be offered.

“Everywhere you look, demand is far exceeding supply for online education,” says Parthenon-EY managing director Matt Robb. “We always knew that there was a market for online education, the only worry was supply.”

But top universities have been taken note. Schools like Aston University have a distance MBA UK that can be taken completely online and was ranked as the 12th best online MBA in the world. This has helped the university get more recognition both in the UK and worldwide, and we can expect more universities to try to copy this model.

The Old Format is Becoming Outdated

The students of tomorrow will be very different from the students of today. Shrinking attention spans among millennials and Gen Z are not myths, and schools will need to adapt their learning format to meet the needs and demands of this generation.

“No one wants to listen to one-hour lectures anymore,” says Robb. “You need to ‘chunk things up’,” he added.

Indeed, online classes can be divided and students can follow courses at their own speed. The flexibility it offers is one of the main reasons why online MBAs will become a more attractive option for students. Other factors include:

  • Possibility to earn the degree from anywhere in the world
  • Affordability
  • Global opportunities
  • Ability to keep their position
  • Advancement opportunities

One of the major benefits of an online education is the chance for advancement and the ability to keep their position while gaining more expertise. This option simply wasn’t available before, and could have a big impact on how companies recruit as well. We can expect more employers to offer incentives to management to get an online MBA, for instance. This will allow them to keep the talent in-house and make online learning a part of their learning and development strategy.

Online Learning is More Convenient

But the bottom line is that online learning is simply more convenient than traditional learning. And most of the factors that made it not that great of an option not too long ago have been corrected. Not only can students now have access to teaching staff and other students easily, they even have more access than in many other programmes. Students can interact with teachers in real time, and get a response during classes, which is almost impossible in a traditional setting.

Communication and cloud tools have made collaboration easier than ever. Students can work on the same project at the same time while communicating through a video conference tool. And this is whether they’re located in Mumbai, Nairobi, or Lincolnshire.

Then there’s the reality of the digital nomad that should not be overlooked. As travelling costs are being driven further down, more people are expected to move during their studies. This usually previously meant taking a sabbatical or enrolling in an exchange programme. The mobility and flexibility of the online MBA is really the main driving factor being the trend, and one that traditional programmes could struggle competing with.

Online education is the way of the future, and unless traditional schools make an effort to address this trend, programmes that are already at the forefront will continue to get an edge. More students value mobility, and unless there is a massive change, demand will continue to outstrip supply.