The most effective online MBA programs are built on these elements

  • February 24, 2023
  • By WashU Olin Business School
  • 3 minute read

What makes a great MBA program? Famous faculty? Dynamic students? A state-of-the-art library of learning resources? When students are figuring out what to look for in an MBA program, they need a mixture of qualities and features that will signal that they’ve uncovered a great, high-quality online experience.

At Olin Business School, we’ve discovered a lot about what makes a successful program. It boils down to a handful of key elements. These elements encompass great faculty, great students, great support and great technology. Each of these elements feeds back to the others. A diverse group of students enriches the faculty’s teaching and draws world-class educators to the campus. A great support team aids the digital surface of an online program. And so on.


Are you wondering how to choose an online MBA program? When sifting through online MBA program requirements, there are a few key elements to look out for. These elements contribute to a student’s experience of an MBA and combine to boost the overall value of this kind of learning.

P is for Personal

A great online program connects a student to the faculty. Faculty members are so present and involved in the student’s ideas that they feel like friends by the end of the program. An MBA that uses video regularly to film faculty and connect cohorts together will succeed in making their program more immersive and social.

R is for Rich

In a dynamic program, students aren’t sitting in front of their screens hour after hour, watching PowerPoint presentations and screencasts. The ideal program will give you a variety of media and interactions to experience. You will meet a variety of faculty members and practitioners, and you will complete a variety of challenging tasks. This is the foundation of a rich experience.

I is for Interactive

Learning business is not a spectator sport. You may be sitting in your bedroom or your study, but you will actively be engaging with course materials and interacting with fellow students, faculty, quizzes and discussions. A complete range of interactive learning methods and modules helps students engage thoughtfully with their own ideas.

N is for Networking

A great program helps a student build a working network of friends, mentors and collaborators—people who will support and join that student’s business ventures into the future. In an online MBA, students work in groups with people who come from a very broad geographical and cultural reach, establishing this diverse mix of friends and helpers.

C is for Communication

Communication is a vital element of any program but especially an online one. From live Zoom sessions to lectures to time for questions, an online MBA needs to carefully bring together spontaneous, “in the room” discussions and give students an opportunity to think and respond with their best ideas.

E is for Engagement

Engagement is what should naturally follow from all of the above elements. Get communication, networking, interactivity, rich variety and personalization in place, and the MBA program can’t help but entice and engage its students.

Two more points to add

There are two further points we can add to really drive home our MBA’s effectiveness and turn this PRINCE into a PRINCESS:

S is for Smart

In today’s world, “smart” no longer refers to aptness; to succeed in the world of business requires an education in data and digital technology. A smart MBA uses the power of data and digital tools to make the program more intuitive and engaging. Technology allows faculty to check in on students who haven’t used the platform or haven’t been engaged, and it allows them to ask how they can help in a personalized and direct way.

S is for Simple

The final letter of our model refers to the simplicity it takes to make a learning program clear and easy to use, while still challenging students academically and professionally. We aim for our technology and materials to provide clear water through which our students can learn to swim.

Are online MBA programs credible? Absolutely. An online MBA is a different animal from an in-person, on-campus program, even though it will be based on the same foundational courses and components. A great online program needs to be dedicated to making a continued, significant investment in a center of digital education. Done correctly, online learning provides an engaging, supportive education while breaking down the traditional barriers that have held back our education system for so long. And that’s where Olin shines.

About the Author

Washington University in Saint Louis

WashU Olin Business School

Firmly established at the Gateway to the West, Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis stands as the gateway to something far grander in scale. The education we deliver prepares our students to thoughtfully make difficult decisions—the kind that can change the world.

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