Photo credit: Melpomene

A quarter-century ago, I went from Tokyo to Boston to get my MBA. Back then, the only way for a diverse group of people to discuss case studies was for all of them to pull up stakes and relocate to a campus in the United States for two years.

Technology has changed all that. Thanks to sophisticated video conferencing tools, people around the globe can now have real-time online discussions as satisfying as the real-world classroom equivalent.

GLOBIS, the business school I founded in 1992, launched a Japanese-language online MBA in 2014. Enrollment is currently doubling every year. In surveys, students of the online course rate the outcomes at similarly high levels as students taking a conventional on-campus MBA. We’ve also been offering online a-la-carte Pre-MBA courses in English since January 2016.

In September 2017, GLOBIS started to offer a completely interactive online MBA in English for the first time.

Unlike many other online courses, all the classes are live, with no pre-recorded content whatsoever.

Doing a real-time online MBA has seven big advantages.

1. You can be there without having to go there. With online classes, physical limitations disappear. There’s no relocating, not even any commuting. Anyone, anywhere can take part.

2. Your classmates’ input is global and timely. Comments from overseas students reflect the realities of their country at that very moment, making discussions more lively and topical. Like foreign correspondents on the news, their opinions are from the front lines and up to the second.

3. You can run your business and study at the same time. With an online MBA, successful entrepreneurs can acquire key business skills without having to step away from running the businesses they’ve built. Working entrepreneurs dealing with daily challenges are a fantastic source of information (and inspiration) to other students in the classes. 

4. You don’t get shut out of discussions. In real-world classroom discussions, native English speakers tend to dominate through simple linguistic “home advantage.” The online chat function tends to equal things out. Because everyone has time to think and pitch in, no one has a monopoly on putting forward their opinions, and no one feels left out.

5. You have more diverse classmates. Conventional on-campus MBAs tend to attract a relatively young crowd, because younger people can more easily quit their jobs and move somewhere else for a year or two. Conversely, online MBAs appeal to a more diverse crowd, with more mature students, more female students (women on maternity leave), etc. Greater diversity and range of life experience make for richer discussions and more interesting points of view.

6. You acquire highly relevant digital business skills. Working in a global organization these days is all about using online tools to collaborate efficiently across geographically dispersed teams. A real-time online MBA is the perfect practical preparation for the modern working environment.

7. Your lecturers can be from anywhere on Earth. When courses move online, the professors don’t need to be based in any specific physical campus any more than the students do. This means B-schools can call on talented teachers from anywhere in the world.

Those are the seven reasons why I’m bullish on the future of online MBAs—the real-time version, not the MOOC type.

And then there’s the macro picture.

In 2016, 190 million Americans—or over half the total population—shopped online. And almost 45 percent of them got their news from Facebook. Netflix currently has almost 94 million subscribers in over 190 countries worldwide.

The internet, in other words, has already revolutionized retail, news media and entertainment. I believe that it’s now transforming not just MBA courses, but university education in its entirety, as students discover that they can get the same—or even better—results without needing to be physically on campus thanks to chat and discussion programs.

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