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A new leaf: Online MBA spins a web

Online programmes are increasingly being preferred, as there is flexibility in timings and people from diverse backgrounds can join

M Saraswathy & Kalpana Pathak  |  Mumbai 

Online programmes have gained momentum among companies. While more and more companies want their executives to take up an because of the time factor, many institutes such as Glion Institute of Higher Education, Switzerland; Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIM-C); UNC Kenan Flagler Business School and U21 Global, have found this market attractive.

Take the Taj Hotels for example. A few months ago, they joined hands with Swiss hospitality institute for online education of their managerial employees. Twenty-five middle and senior level managers were part of the programme in hospitality The cost of $34,000 (Rs 19 lakh approximately) per student for the course was fully sponsored by Taj.

Rustom Vesavevala, vice-president of Development and Learning with Taj Hotels, had then explained that new trends in the hospitality industry, such as changes in customer preferences, demographics and a need to redefine luxury reflect the need for developing evolving professional managers. “Given this scenario and our growth plans, successful HR development is a key strategy for the Taj,” he had said earlier.

  • One get an MBA degree from a particular institute from anywhere in the world
  • Each student is given a particular time-slot, when he/she has to login into the system
  • Students can interact with one another, as also the professor through web camera and chat messages
  • Students have to come online for about 20-30 hours for lessons every week
  • Periodic assessments and examinations are conducted online
  • Immersion activities, including regular meetings of students of a particular area, are arranged on a regular basis

Anouk Tenten, Glion Online partnership manager, explained that companies prefer online courses to traditional classroom-based courses because the institute’s 100 per cent online programme combines core theory with applied industry knowledge, to deliver everything one would expect from a challenging on-campus programme in a flexible, yet interactive, online format.

The diverse student body enrolled in Glion boasts of representatives from over 60 countries. “This provides students a fantastic opportunity to develop a global perspective in an interactive learning environment, which allows peer-to-peer, as well as instructor-led education,” she said.

There are also several individuals from Indian service sector firms pursuing the programme with Glion. However, this was Glion’s first corporate partnership with an Indian firm.

offers satellite-based, long duration certificate programmes through the Hughes and NIIT Imperia platforms. Ashok Banerjee, dean of new initiatives and external relations at IIM-C, said, “This mode of executive education has attracted a large number of participants, mainly due to the flexibility that it offers. Over the years, there has been a steady increase in the number of these programmes and in the number of participants. Our revenue from these long duration programmes has been to the tune of 20 per cent of the total revenue.”

Most of these long-duration satellite-based programmes at are open programmes where participants from various companies can join. Organisations either nominate participants for the open programmes or request for customised programmes specific to the needs of their organisations. The programme duration ranges from six months to one year. Participants login for the classes from various locations (Hughes and NIIT Imperia centers) across the country. Hughes has some international centres, too.

Tenten informs that online education has increased within the last couple of years, and one can see many campus-based institutions providing at an accredited level. “Most important is that these online courses are now at the same standards of a campus-based programme, and, therefore, have become increasingly popular with individuals who are unable to study full time on a campus,” she added. She said their most popular online programme was the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc (NEASC) accredited MBA in international hospitality and services industries Management. Glion in the last year has expanded the online portfolio to not only include the MBA qualification but also provide certificate and diploma programmes.

Glion grew from a student body of 178 to 300 on a year-on-year basis. “As we are also currently developing programmes to meet the needs of the market, we do expect growth in our business-to-business efforts,” said Tenten.

At the UNC Kenan Flagler Business School, the online and offline management programmes are priced equally. The school offers MBA@UNC, an online programme for a two-year duration. There are 15 students per class and each student needs to give 15 hours per subject per week. The curriculum is exactly the same as the offline programme. To keep the students engaged, the institute conducts immersion activities in major cities across the world, including India. Here, meetings are organised where major economic and political topics are discussed. It also gives an opportunity for networking.

James W Dean Jr, dean of the B-School, explained the online course was attractive because of the flexibility it provided. “We have about 150 students in the programme, including Indian nationals. This course is popular, as it gives individuals an ability to implement the lessons learnt on job the next day. We are optimistic about the numbers and feel that our brand reputation would be enhanced through this programme,” he said. MBA@UNC offers professionals the ability to start four times a year (January, April, July and October). The dean, however, said the profile of the students in the online course was different from that of the others. He said while the students in the offline courses were looking at a shift in their career, online MBA students were not looking at a career change, but at enhancing their skills.

There are also others, like U21 Global, that are entirely online based. U21 Global offers postgraduate programmes, and has big expansion plans. The graduate school is in close partnership and collaboration with four prestigious partner universities —University of Birmingham, University of Melbourne, University of Nottingham and University of Virginia. U21Global has successfully enrolled students from 72 countries around the world. It also established a new division, Global Learning Services (GLS), last year, which collaborates with institutions and corporations that wish to take advantage of the rising opportunities in online education, such as the development of and courses, but might lack the necessary resources, knowledge and expertise. Manipal Education Group acquired the company in 2007.

Anand Sudarshan, MD & CEO of Manipal Global Education Services,, said, “U21 Global has focused these past 18-plus months on current enrolled students, and has been working on a new set of plans. The new plans are approximately about six to eight weeks from being launched.” He added it would be good to have high-quality offerings in India in terms of online education from foreign institutes. “It would indeed be competition, but it would also build substance and value for students, for the most part,” he said. It is to be noted that Vaitheeswaran S will take over the position of Sudarshan on July 1.

Experts say the market potential for online learning services is huge. The e-learning market globally will be a whopping Rs 2.5 lakh crore by 2014, say industry experts. “We will only see new players, both national and global, exploiting this market in the coming years. Now that Indian companies across sectors are cutting costs on overseas trips for education of employees, we can only see more online education providers entering the Indian market,” said an education sector expert.

First Published: Thu, June 21 2012. 00:02 IST