Questrom to Offer Online MBA with edX in 2020
BU sees opportunity for growth, and to be a disruptor, in a changing landscape
Boston University and its Questrom School of Business will team with the online education platform edX to offer an online BU MBA worldwide beginning in fall 2020.
“We’ve recognized the transformative potential of edX for some time,” says President Robert A. Brown. “With the online MBA, we’re seizing the initiative to offer a major degree for which we believe there is global demand. Higher education must evolve in a fast-changing world. We aim to lead in this evolution.”
In launching the online MBA, the University is investing in the capability to deliver high-quality, potentially large-enrollment online graduate programs, which could be key in the near future, says Jean Morrison, BU provost and chief academic officer.
“I think this is a critical capability for us to develop, going into a time when the higher education landscape is disrupted by increasing opportunities for students to get certificates and degrees online,” Morrison says.
Tuition for the Master of Business Administration from Boston University Questrom School of Business will be $24,000, and applications open on August 16 of this year for classes beginning in fall 2020. It is the first MBA offered through edX.org and will be available to prospective students around the globe.
The edX platform, which was created in 2012 by Harvard University and MIT, has more than 21 million registered users, representing every country in the world, who have enrolled in more than 75 million courses.
“Through this degree, BU opens itself to the world in a manner we haven’t done before,” says Chrysanthos Dellarocas, associate provost for digital learning & innovation.
“This is a paradigm shift on so many levels,” adds Susan Fournier, Allen Questrom Professor and Dean of the Questrom School of Business. “Our online MBA generates new content and capabilities necessary to compete in the evolving educational landscape.”
BU has already been in partnership with edX for six years, offering a number of free or low-cost MOOCs (massive open online courses) and in the last couple of years two MicroMasters in business, where students take five courses and earn a certificate.
“I think this is exciting, having an online MBA from a top school that can be made available to the whole world on edX. I think it’s a big deal,” says Anant Agarwal, edX president. “It is one of the highest-demanded programs on edX. Our learners are really super excited about it.”
The edX platform offers more than 2,000 MOOCs from 140 schools, usually available free. However, “verified” students pay modest fees to get graded assessments and verified statistics as well as unlimited access to the courses offered through the free Open edX open-source software program. Also offered are 53 MicroMasters and 94 professional certificate programs.
Just last fall edX offered its first 10 master’s degree programs, including a master’s in computer science from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s in analytics from the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Our learners kept asking for more,” Agarwal says.
About two-thirds of edX’s learners already have bachelor’s degrees and are typically looking for work or to advance in their jobs, “looking to upskill,” as he says. The 10 current master’s programs are meeting or exceeding target enrollment, he says, with for example 3,000 enrolled in the master’s program in analytics.
Through this degree, BU opens itself to the world in a manner we haven’t done before.
“We are excited about the partnership with BU, and I think we will be doing a lot more together,” Agarwal says.
Running an online MBA program presents a variety of challenges for the University, beginning with producing course materials and marketing to students around the world. Once the program is up and running, BU will have to deliver courses and support to perhaps thousands of learners in time zones around the world.
“It will drive us to get really clever in exploring how far we can take peer engagement and how creatively we can combine technology and human instructors,” says Dellarocas, who is also the Richard C. Shipley Professor in Management.
Federal financial aid will be available to enrolled Questrom Online MBA students, and all its requirements and restrictions will apply. Because of the affordability of the program, BU will not offer scholarships to online students, although scholarships are available from a variety of external sources.
One important question that BU leaders say they are mindful of is how a lower-cost online MBA might affect the existing, but more costly, Questrom MBA program. It’s a simple matter of market segmentation, according to Fournier. “Throughout our 105-year history, the School has introduced iterations of the MBA to address unique segments of business learners,” she says.
There are 300 full-time and 600 to 700 part-time students in the on-campus MBA program and 50 to 60 in the executive MBA program. “The time has come again to expand our portfolio, using new technologies to reach the global online segment,” adds Fournier. “We are excited to deliver on our social mission by making our high-quality online MBA accessible at a disruptive price point.”
The online MBA was designed from the ground up with the global online learner in mind. “Based on research and an understanding of the advantages of online technology, we created a program framework that was focused on capabilities needed for global leadership, like innovation and data-driven decision-making,” adds Fournier. The program will incorporate input and content from high-profile Questrom alumni and business partners around the world.
Fournier stresses that Questrom remains committed to its on-campus MBA programs: “There’s a sizeable segment of the MBA population that desires the ability to specialize in business disciplines, build face-to-face networks, take advantage of rich on-campus cocurricular experiences, and directly connect with the Boston ecosystem.”
“The way to think about it is, if we don’t do it, someone else will,” Dellarocas says. “We might as well be the ones that lead the pack.”