Monday, July 11, 2005

University of Florida

I had a request for my opinion on the Internet MBA program through the Warrington College of Business at the University of Florida. First and foremost, it's well to note that they were one of the first - if not the first - to offer an AACSB-accredited MBA online. This should mean, in theory, they've had lots of time to work out the kinks, so to speak. Additionally, they offer two versions - a two year, and for those with an undergrad in Business, a one year option. Personally, I think I would opt for the two-year program - Sure, it's nice to get things over with quickly, but I just think that trying to cram everything into one year - even assuming an undergrad in business - will result in much of the information being lost on you, or quickly forgotten. That is, however, just my opinion.

Let's see how it stacks up against the "main criteria" first:
  • AACSB Accreditation - Yup.
  • Ranking/Reuptation - Warrington is is ranked #42 by USNWR in 2006. It is unranked by BusinessWeek (2004) and the FinancialTimes (2005). They are well ranked in several sub-categories (regional, public schools, E-MBA, concentrations, etc); they toot their own horn here.
  • Degree Differentiation - They do not differentiate full-time/part-time/online. This is a Good ThingTM - They take their online programs seriously enough to equate the final product to that of their full-time offering.
  • Interaction - A mix of synchronous and asynchronous, and moderate to high in-residence time for an online program, with an intial orientation plus 7 weekend visits.
  • Specialization - As best I can tell, the Internet MBA is General Management only.
Pretty good, if you ask me! It's not ranked by BusinessWeek or the Financial Times, but I think it still offers good "big-name" brick-and-mortar value, along with an excellent Top 50 ranking by US News & World Report. The cost is $37,000, which includes everything but travel and hotel stays for the residencies (though, they will coordinate hotel arrangements on your behalf). Do recall, that's 8 weekend trips to Gainesville, FL, so that may or may not be a big impact on your budget, depending on your location.

Two things that are included that are a bit unusual to me are a) a laptop, and b) all the "core content" lecture materials - both lectures andPowerPoint - on DVD (Source: The 19.5 MB flash presentation on their web page). Some (myself included) might find the inclusion of $2,550 of institution-chosen computer hardware and software to be a bit annoying; thinking that they could find one for less. Without knowing exactly what software is included, though, it's hard to tell how much better you could do on your own. For the busy or those that just don't want to fool with it, I'd imagine it'd be pretty nice to just get a laptop with all the software you'll need for school pre-installed. I would also imagine it would make tech support through them all the easier, since the techs and users can have a standard configuration to work from. The inclusion of "core content" on DVD is a really neat concept to me - to have something of a lecture reference library of your entire MBA would have to be handy! For the road warriors out there, I think having the ability to watch lectures while in-flight, or otherwise un-connected to the 'net, would be a big plus.

The classes are 2-3 at a time per 4 month session (trimester, I guess, technically). Looking at their course schedule, it does look like they make some attempt to balance it out with (in general) two 3 credit hour classes, and one 1 credit hour class. Personally, I think I'm still partial to the courses in series rather than parallel, but your mileage may vary.

Since this blog is ... well ... my blog, and I want to do more than just aggregate information, I'm going to try and compare to my experiences thus far. Primary differences are some rankings - ASU is ranked 31 by USNWR (2006); Top 30-50 BusinessWeek (2004), and #66 globally by the FinancialTimes (2005). However, those in the south-east US might get more mileage out of UF's name than they might ASU's. The other prime difference is the amount of in-residence required - 2 weeks max for ASU and IU; 8 weekends for UF. As far as "online-friendly", from what I've seen so far (which is only things available publicly on the respective school's sites), I'd put ASU and UF at the top, followed by IU. I'd really like to see UF offer some sort of "test drive" of their system (proprietary, developed in-house), since they seem to be quite proud of it - that could possibly put them at the top, but I can't make that call without seeing it. There is a "demo", but it's just a video of the system being used, you don't get to play with the actual system. The resolution wasn't great, but it looks comparable to BlackBoard and the like.

Key questions or concerns I'd ask myself before attending UF (roughly in order of priority)?
  1. Is the 8 week-end trips to Gainesville, FL, something I want (or really don't want)?
  2. Am I happy with the ranking and reputation?
  3. Is the one-year or two-year program right for me?
All in all, I think the Internet MBA at UF looks like a great option. All my experience is simply from browsing the site - so take all this with however many grains of salt that you need to. That said, I really think you can get a feel for how seriously they take their online program, and how online students are valued, just poking around their site, and we all know how I feel about customer service to the online student.

Regards,

Daniel

5 comments:

Steffan Von Hoffman said...

I wanted to thank you for the detailed examination of the University of Florida pros and cons and of the other online mba programs you have mentioned in depth on your site. This is a great service to those of us trying to make an informed decision concerning an online mba. Keep up the good work and I look forward to hearing about your progress at W.P. Carey.

dforester said...

Glad to be of help - I know when I was trying to decide all this (not too long ago!), there just wasn't much out there, by way of reviews and the like, or just normal peoples' thoughts & opinions. Just tryin' to do my part!

Regards,

Daniel

Mickey said...

Thankd Daniel for the info.

As I hold an undergraduate degree in Business, I was looking for you opinion about O of Florida. This is the only plan that waive some courses if you hold a B.A in Business. However I live in Vegas so it is far away. ASU sounds great but compare to UofF it is more expensive and takes much longer to complete. I wonder if you have found a better alternative to UofF if you were in my situation...thanks!! keep up the great job!!

Mickey

dancilhoney said...

The most attractive part of this online mba programs is that it maintains a very high level of standard while keeping its flexibility.

Zoni Jesus said...

In my opinion through global MBA is much better than full- time MBA. So, I will prefer to join Thunderbird’s Global MBA Online program. I have already searched lots of information about this online school and got great reviews.