The newly announced $24K BU MBA, created in partnership with edX, is a big deal.
Here are 5 reasons why:
#1: The Evolving Connection Between Status and Price:
The Boston University Questrom School of Business is ranked in the top 50 global business schools by US News, in the top 70 by the Economist. Questrom is a brand name business school in a market where the value of the MBA is directly proportional to the status of the institution.
Today, status and price are tightly correlated in the postsecondary market. This is especially true in professional education. Student prices are not set at costs, but at perceived value.
BU should be given credit for challenging this status quo. I suspect that the Questrom $24K MBA will end up improving BU's place in the global MBA rankings.
By offering a high-priced and small-scale residential MBA alongside an unbundled online MBA, BU is experimenting with brand segmentation. The bundled residential MBA retains the high-priced services, such as intensive advising and career placement - along with experiential learning opportunities, that differentiate for quality. The unbundled online MBA focuses on skills, competencies, and credentialing. They are related but different offerings.
#2: A Catalyst for Quality:
The best thing that could happen for the quality of the bundled residential Questrom MBA is the development of the unbundled online edX MBA. Why? This $24K online degree will push the $56K degree ($76,000 with room and board) to improve.
Questrom's dean Susan Fournier (who I think is visionary), is quoted in the IHE piece as saying that "It's our responsibility to make that value proposition obvious."
Expensive education, whether it be residential or online, can no longer be only about content, skills, competencies, and credentialing. If a school is going to charge a high price for a degree, then that degree needs to be worth the price. The push from programs such as this new $24K online MBA will do wonders to drive improvements in program quality.
I suspect that the passive model of lecture-based teaching and learning will be quickly and universally replaced by a set of more active and experiential learning strategies.
Schools that offer traditional (high-priced) residential and online programs will need to significantly invest in instructional designers and other learning professionals. These non-faculty educators will form deep partnership with faculty around course and program design.
What is different now is that it will not only be enthusiasm for learning science that will drive schools (and MBA programs) to improve their programs. It will be the market.
#3: The Value of a Clean Sheet Curriculum:
Check out the curriculum for the online MBA:
MODULE 1: CREATING SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE BUSINESSES IN THE DIGITAL AGE (9 credits)
MODULE 2: DATA DRIVEN DECISION-MAKING (9 credits)
MODULE 3: LEADING WITH INTEGRITY (9 credits)
MODULE 4: LEVERAGING GLOBAL BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES (9 credits)
MODULE 5: DEVELOPING THE INNOVATIVE MINDSET (9 credits)
I don't know about you, but to my eyes, this seems like a terrific curriculum.
What Questrom was able to do was approach this curriculum with a clean sheet. They seem to have thought deeply about what would be the MBA curriculum that global learners will need in the 21st century. They also seem to be designing a curriculum that can work well through the medium of online learning.
Of course, the question I always have about a low-cost degree program is about quality? Can the learning scale with quality? My guess is that a clean sheet curriculum is a prerequisite for achieving quality at scale.
#4: The Risk to Regional MBA Programs:
Who are the losers in this $24K BU MBA? I'd say every regionally known MBA program. From looking at US News, it looks like there are 475 MBA programs. (Is this right?)
How will the BU MBA accelerate the closing of regional residential MBA programs?
As an industry, I don't think that we are adequately grappling with what the emergence of low-cost degrees from highly regarded institutions will mean for the broader higher ed ecosystem.
I think that the $24K program is great for BU. But what about all the schools that depend on their master's program to cover the costs of educating undergraduates?
Will low-cost online degrees end up further consolidating privilege among a few institutions?
What is the responsibility of edX and Coursera to colleges and universities that they do not partner with?
#5: A Challenge to Traditional OPMs:
What will be the impact of a $24K BU MBA on the OPM industry?
One reason that I think the price can be set this low is that the student acquisition costs should be lower for edX and Coursera than for other online programs. After all, edX has 21 million learners on its platform. Coursera has 37 million. This is a big head start in marketing.
EdX and Coursera also have platforms that are designed to scale. Again, I am most curious about how the quality of learning in a degree program will be maintained as the number of online students grow. I have many questions about quality. But at least edX and Coursera have lots of experience with large numbers of students.
Will we start to see 2U, Pearson, Noodle, Emeritus, Wiley, and other OPMs move into the low-cost online degree space?
Will top schools choose to focus their online degree efforts on unbundled / low-cost degrees, leaving the residential high-price bundled degree programs intact?
This $24K online BU MBA is a very big deal. We should be talking about it more.
What do you think of this $24K online BU MBA?