By Colin Nelson
Much has been said regarding management education offered online, including in the archives of our own blog. While it is certainly very much up for debate whether MOOCs will all take over instruction of basic classes, or if virtual campuses will come to replace brick-and-mortar, the one thing that no one can deny is that online education is increasing in popularity and availability:
Figure 1. Number of AACSB-Accredited Schools Reporting Fully Online Programs
Note: This table includes data from a controlled set of 480 accredited schools that responded to the AACSB Business School Questionnaire (BSQ) in all five years. Please note that each school may have more than one fully online program at each given level.
480 AACSB-accredited schools, representing 34 countries and territories worldwide, participated in each of the last five annual BSQ surveys. Figure 1 (above) shows the numbers of these schools that reported offering one or more of their degree programs, at any level, in a fully online delivery format has grown by nearly 43% over the past five years. Obviously, much of that growth comes at the MBA level, while the gains in numbers of bachelor’s and specialized master’s programs offered fully online were more modest.
One notable exception to this trend is online doctoral programs. As of this writing, no AACSB-accredited school has ever reported a fully online doctoral program on the BSQ. There are, however, AACSB-accredited schools offering blended/hybrid or distance-learning doctoral programs, so who’s to say what the future may bring?
Interestingly, the regional breakdown of which schools offer their programs in the fully online format is far from even. Although schools in Northern America made up approximately 87% of the controlled set represented here, they consistently made up more than 95% of those who reported offering fully online MBA or specialist master’s programs, and 100% of those offering fully online bachelor’s programs. By contrast, there are as yet no African or Asian respondents that report fully online programs at any level, and there were none in Oceania prior to the 2010-11 survey year.
This regional concentration is at least partly a function of greater historical participation in the BSQ in Northern America. However, since the regional concentration of schools offering fully online programs remains several percentage points higher than the regional concentration of BSQ participants in all years, participation is clearly not the only contributing factor.
Given the origins of the Internet itself in the region, for example, schools in Northern America have also had the most time and opportunity to develop the virtual infrastructure necessary to make offering fully online programs feasible. Additionally, since fully online education makes geographical location largely a moot point from the perspective of potential students, the location of the offering institution probably matters less than it would for other modes of delivery.Now, it very well may also be that schools in regions other than Northern America are underreporting their programs, or are simply underrepresented in the BSQ thus far. The number of BSQ participants outside Northern America has grown steadily over the past five years, however, and is up 45% in 2011-12 versus 2007-08. This will be a trend worth continuing to watch, particularly as our global participation grows larger and larger.