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#1 Ranked IU Kelley Online MBA Undergoes Major Curriculum Update

Ranked IU Kelley Online MBA

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Already ranked #1 by the U.S. News & World Report, the IU Kelley Direct Online MBA has revamped its program for a more customizable experience. Now, their online program is even more robust while still offering the same flexibility and strengths that have made Kelley Direct a long-time business leader.

As always, the same faculty that teach in the IU Kelley on-campus programs also teach in the Kelley Online program. The Kelley Direct Online program also still includes live case studies within every in-residence week, offers global and domestic immersions, and focuses on quality student experiences.

The purpose of the revamp wasn’t to take away any of the elements that made the online MBA so great in the first place. Instead, the goal was to enhance the curriculum and offer more customization to make the program even stronger.

The Kelley Direct Online MBA now offers students 50 percent electives, seven majors, and a signature integrated core experience focused on business fundamentals.

It’s the next evolution of the online MBA, which goes far beyond what people typically think of for online MBAs.

“The primary motivation for the redesigned online MBA was not to focus on a new market segment, but to update our product and create a significant differentiator from other competitors in the marketplace,” explains Ramesh Venkataraman, chair of the Kelley Direct Online MBA and MS programs.

More Electives for a More Customized Student Experience

A quick glance at the current marketplace tells you that a candidate with specialized knowledge is more valuable than a general management MBA candidate. So, it made sense for the Kelley Online MBA program to update its curriculum to match what employers want, and they did this by drastically increasing the number of electives offered.

“In general, online MBA programs tend to be more core-heavy with less potential for electives,” Ramesh says. “But why should our online MBA not have as many electives as any other product? Specialized knowledge is what the marketplace wants, and our new electives allow students to gain that knowledge and use it as a launching pad in their careers.”

The newly revamped online MBA, which launches this fall, requires students to complete 27 credit hours of core coursework and 27 credit hours of electives—a 50/50 split. It’s a significant change from the previous format, which allowed for just 12 elective credits. The increase—with at least ten different electives in each of seven disciplines—results in a far more customizable student experience that’s aligned with both student and employer expectations.

But don’t worry; to get here, the online MBA didn’t take away from the core knowledge students need. Instead, the new curriculum is far more streamlined. The core material has been compressed into two credit hour classes instead of three, but with the same subject matters and essence.

“They’re not going to lose content,” states Ramesh. “They’re just going to enjoy their core content in a new format.”

The newly revamped online MBA format breaks down the core curriculum into three blocks: understanding markets and institutions; delivering value through functional excellence; and creating and sustaining competitive advantage. Each block includes a trio of 12-week courses with eight live sessions each that leverage technology to get the content out synchronously and asynchronously.

  • Core 1: Business law and ethics, economics, and organizational behavior.
  • Core 2: Operations management, marketing management, and financial management.
  • Core 3: Digital tech and innovation, developing strategic capabilities, and an integrative live case experience.

Though, you should note, the update does mean that there’s a little more overall work. Online students now have to complete a total of 54 credits compared to 51.

However, the hope is that this increased workload will result in MBA students from a wider variety of backgrounds choosing the program thanks to the depth and breadth of their new course offerings, which includes seven new majors.

  1. Business Analytics
  2. Entrepreneurship & Innovation
  3. Finance
  4. Global Supply Chain Management
  5. IT Management
  6. Marketing
  7. Strategic Management

These majors allow students to choose the curriculum that best reflects their interests and career goals. Now, it’s possible to go deep into a specific business area or industry in a way that wasn’t possible before, providing students with a way to optimize their resume and find the best opportunities for moving forward.

Learning Doesn’t Stop Inside the Classroom. It’s an Immersive Experience with Many Co-Curricular Opportunities.

But learning doesn’t stop in the classroom when you choose the Kelley Online MBA. It’s an immersive experience that helps you build skills and confidence far beyond the curriculum through co-curricular opportunities.

“We know that online MBA students want to build a set of experiences that complement what they do in their online courses, but there’s a lot of variability in terms of what students want to build,” says Adam Herman, executive director of the Kelley Direct MBA and MS programs. “So, we offer a wide range of co-curricular opportunities that students can use to strengthen their professional profile.”

There are four main types of co-curricular activities:

  1. Experiential learning, including global and domestic immersion experiences as part of credit-bearing courses.
  2. robust slate of affinity groups/clubs, both identity-oriented and career field-specific.
  3. Twice-annual Global Connect Networking Night in 25-30 cities across the globe.
  4. A suite of high-impact offerings from the career and professional development center.

In particular, experiential learning is a hallmark of the Kelley Direct Online MBA program. From a variety of in-person courses that focus on a particular business area to global and domestic immersion experiences, experiential learning is a highlight of many students’ education.

“Experiential learning is super important to the Kelley Online MBA program,” says Joe Hwalek, a ’19 MBA and associate brand manager for Hyatt Place Hotels, Hyatt Corp. “The greatest experience has been working in smaller teams. You spend an incredible number of hours working and learning from them, and each time, I’ve been awed at the level of professionalism and the solutions that we’ve put together.”

These immersive, educational experiences enrich the online MBA and create life-changing moments where students can make connections and learn by doing.

For example, there’s an annual trip to Washington D.C. that focuses on public policy. Students spend a week at the Washington Campus exploring, site seeing, and learning from the best and brightest individuals in politics.

“The program is fantastic,” describes Elisa Stampf, a ’19 MBA and senior small commercial sales representative at The Hartford. “The first day we were on campus we listened to speakers from all walks of life, backgrounds, and political parties. The next day, we toured Capitol Hill, spent time at the National Press Club, and more. Everything was incredibly relevant, and was an investment that was worth every penny.”

Also worth every penny are the global experiences where students will see the world and gain international economic knowledge and skills to move their careers forward.

MBA Students Are Going to Work in a Global Environment, and Being Online Doesn’t Change that Fact.

“Just because you’re an online MBA student doesn’t change the fact you’re an MBA student in need of international experience,” says Ramesh. “So, the more our students understand what it takes to do business outside the U.S. and in different cultures, the better. Our global experiences are crucial to providing that exposure.”

These Global Immersions typically include 5-6 weeks of online content to give students a deep understanding of business in a rapidly emerging market such as Thailand, India, South Africa, or Cuba. Then students head to their country of study to visit key companies and work on a real-world project. After returning to their homes, students work on—and submit—valuable deliverables designed to meet their clients’ needs.

For Elisa Stampf, that meant going to Vietnam for a consulting project.

“Our group was paired with a client and tasked to solve some of their business problems,” remembers Elisa. “We faced some challenges along the way, but we were able to consult with a local MBA student who knew the language and culture and who helped strengthen our experience.”

Even if students choose not to head out on a week-long international trip to a foreign country, they still have the opportunity to gain exposure to global business during their second Kelley Connect Week. During that time, they take on a business case study in a foreign country, which forces them to solve an international business problem, giving every student a global perspective.

IU Kelley MBA students in Vietnam.

Kelley Connect Weeks Are When Students Fall in Love with the Program

Speaking of Kelley Connect Weeks, when you ask students about their most memorable times in the Kelley Online MBA, they’ll always mention these two weeks. As Elisa says, “Kelley Connect Week was when I fell in love with the program and what I was doing.”

In most online programs you rarely meet your fellow students in person. However, that’s exactly the point of Kelley Connect Weeks. You attend these twice during the program for a full week, not a short weekend, allowing you to be completely immersed in the program, city, and school.

“Kelley Connect Weeks immerse you in something bigger,” explains Elisa.

Kelley Connect Weeks are a chance to feel connected to your classmates, professors, and the program on a much deeper level. Students head to Indiana University’s Bloomington campus for a week when they’ll meet faculty and classmates, work on team projects, undergo intensive coursework, and attend networking events. The highlight of the week is the live business case where students work in a team to solve a real client/company problem before presenting their solution to the real company, face-to-face.

“The Kelley Connect Weeks are super rewarding,” says Joe. “I’ve created friendships that I’ll have for the rest of my life. And from a career perspective, my classmates have been a valuable source of advice and networking, ultimately helping me make a career change.”

Top-Ranked Career Services Take Online MBAs to the Next Level

And making a career change is why many online MBA students choose an MBA. They’re looking for a change in their function, industry, location, or promotion—a way to enhance their potential. And that’s why the Kelley’s Graduate Career Services are so valuable.

“We have a five-phase career development model for our online MBA students,” explains Adam Herman. “It begins before the first Kelley Connect Week when students are sent pre-work focused on their career goals. From there, students are assigned a dedicated career coach who works alongside the student and guides them throughout the rest of their MBA program.”

These career coaches regularly check in with their students one-on-one to provide insight, offer feedback, and help with overall career navigation. Combined with online materials, weekly communication, and the ability to take classes delivered by the career services office, students have endless opportunities to impact their career in both small and large ways.

With a 115,000-strong alumni network, there are thousands of ways to make meaningful career connections.

For Joe Hwalek, that meant changing his career twice throughout the course of the program. He started out working at an advertising agency, but what he really wanted was to make the switch to working for a corporation. And that’s exactly what he did.

“I’m very fortunate that throughout my online MBA, I was able to move to another ad agency and then to a strategic role with Hyatt,” Joe explains. “The MBA gave me the knowledge that I needed to showcase myself well and demonstrate my commitment to my career field.”

In the End, It’s All About the Students.

And, in the end, the Kelley Online MBA, revamped or not, has always been about what students can get out of it.

“Our lives are so incredibly unique and diverse, and we get to share those experiences live,” says Elisa. “I now have people across the country and world that I know thanks to this program. And we’ve all been able to help each other in our professional lives. The technology IU Kelley uses does a stellar job of bringing people together.”

“The reason I chose the Kelley Online MBA is the flexibility it gave me, no matter my life stage,” Joe says. “I was able to move homes, change jobs twice, and maintain my lifestyle all while continuing my education. Life is busy, and you never know what will happen, so the flexibility to adjust my schedule weekly was invaluable.”

Choose an MBA where your success is paramount. Learn more and apply at the Kelley Direct Online MBA website.

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About the Author


Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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