The Great Debate: Studying An MBA Online Or On Campus


Those who have made the choice to study a Master of Business Administration still have a decision to make before class begins – do I study on campus or online?

Times have truly changed since the early days of correspondence education. Studying on-campus is no longer an obvious or superior option, and an off-campus education no longer means waiting for assignments to arrive in the mail because the university is too far away.

Thanks to the advanced usability and accessibility of the internet, the modern business person studying for an MBA is caught in the middle of the great debate between the two. But the question is no longer, ‘which is better – online or on campus?’ The question is now, ‘online or on campus – which one will work the best for me?’

Here we break down the different attributes of MBA study in order to find out what each platform means for the typical MBA student.

Studying online

Obtaining an MBA online is a flexible option that allows a student to ride the wave of cyberspace through many doors of opportunity. It gives students the freedom to choose how and when they study, and allows students to study at their own pace without having to worry about travel times and costs associated with visiting a business school campus.

While many Australian MBA programs require some degree of campus attendance to complete pieces of assessment, more institutions have recognised that their students also have careers and have slowly adapted to offer full online programs.

Online MBA students tend to have a greater balance between work, education and personal life because the separation is a mere push of a button. Certain time-related sacrifices no longer exist, and students are able to organise their MBA studies around work and family, not the other way around.

Students who study online are also no longer limited by the facilities and resources within their immediate vicinity. Thanks to the internet, MBA students can access the most up-to-date information from around the world, and can potentially study MBA programs at business schools several states away.

Online study is not, however, the clear and easy choice that its benefits make it out to be. Studying an MBA is challenging and requires great discipline and a significant investment of personal time. Those who undertake an online MBA program must be self-motivated and ready to take on the challenge without the safety net of a classroom structure – the commitment to keep up with classes and assigned work can often be strained when professors and peers aren’t as present than on campus.

Studying on-campus

On-campus MBAs represent the traditional approach to education, where students travel to the classroom and sit amongst their peers to absorb the knowledge put forward by professor and literature.

While online study has grown in recent years in appeal and legitimacy, studying on campus remains a viable option for MBA students because of the structure and stability it represents. On-campus programs require students to register for specific classes, attendance is required and homework, projects, and exams have stricter due dates.

Business school campuses also contain within them social resources rarely found in other forms of study. Students can approach their lecturers and course advisors for guidance regarding educations and careers, or even turn to their peers for support. Networking opportunities are also available, and are integral to the MBA experience. While there are opportunities to network in online MBA programs, face-to-face communication creates stronger, more human connections. Many students are seasoned business professionals who walk away from their on-campus experience with a new address book filled with lifelong friends and new contacts that could benefit their career.

Another benefit of attending a traditional program is reputation. While MBA online MBAs are slowly losing this stigma, graduates from renowned business school programs are still viewed with higher regard from many employers and those in the business world.

Some of the biggest hurdles on-campus MBAs face involve flexibility, or a lack thereof. Rigidly structured class schedules, travel logistics and mandatory attendance can affect a student’s personal and professional life, and often become major factors in whether or not to pursue an MBA at all.

The great debate between online and on-campus MBA programs boils down to how each of their pros and cons affect the individual student.

Consider earning your MBA online if:

  • You have family, work, or other commitments that require a more flexible schedule.
  • You want to attend a program located far from where you live.
  • You’re self-motivated and possess a lot of self-discipline.
  • You have access to reliable technology.

Consider earning your MBA on campus if:

  • You tend to learn better in a structured environment.
  • You would benefit from in-person discussions.
  • You want to build a robust professional network.
  • You want easier access to on-campus student services.