The Role of Online Universities

The Role of Online Universities

As my regular readers know, I’m currently working on my MBA at Penn State through the iMBA program.  This means that the degree, while a fully accredited Penn State MBA, is earned online.  This allows me, for example, to be in London this week for work, but still be earning the MBA.  In fact, I have a full days worth of work to do on it tomorrow.

Last week I had an interesting  discussion about how effective an online education can be.  I argued that it was effective in three cases:

  1. You are intending to take an “unskilled” position upon graduation.  A couple days ago I posted about what I termed a shift to the “new skilled” labor.  I argued that knowledge based careers will not be considered skilled in the future, you will have to be adding something unique to be considered “skilled”.  For example, a lawyer who knows the law won’t be considered skilled because search technologies can search it just as well or better then he knows it and social communities make that even easier.  A “skilled” lawyer will be one that innovates on the law (an aspiring judge or law review writer) or is particularly good at practicing some part of the law (negotiating, speaking to a jury, etc….).  This will effectively split the practice of law in to two separate professions.  The “unskilled” research and paperwork lawyers and the “skilled” lawyers.
  2. You are actively applying the knowledge being gained as you are learning it.  This is why I am getting my MBA online.  I work case studies everyday with my extended team (other MBAs and business people) as part of my job.
  3. Your job will require international collaboration.  If your job will require international collaboration an online degree should be preferable.  You will learn how to exist in a world of conference calls, time zone differences, web 2.0 collaboration, email and the rest before you’re forced to land in it.  This is especially true if you’re getting this degree without “real” work experience.