The Jury is Out: Are Business Degrees Online Respected?

Business Degrees Online

If you asked a business professional just 10 years ago how they felt about an online degree, they would probably have said that they were uncertain, but skeptical. In fact, one study that I read recently asked college professors how they felt about online learning; this study found that 10 years ago these educators were very slow to support online education, but today they are starting to recognize its value, particularly for busy adults. To be honest, how respectable business degrees online are, is the type of question that I am most often asked as an online instructor. In short, you are wondering, "online degrees are they worth it?" Read on a bit to see what I know about this.

An Online Degree Is Rigorous

I worked in the business world for 15 years before I moved to academia. When I first learned about online learning I was as skeptical as most, wondering if business skills could truly be learned and practiced with business degrees online. What I quickly found is that the online environment is readily conducive to learning basic tenets of business, from marketing and accounting to leadership.

Anything you can learn through a text book or lecture you can learn online. What I also quickly realized was that various soft skills that are so important to our modern, global and distributed world (including communications, writing and team leading) seem almost better suited to online learning to traditional learning. In short, I believe that online learning is just as rigorous as traditional, and that business degrees online are as valuable as any other.

What Does the Research Say?

Unfortunately, I have spent literally hours researching this topic and I simply cannot find any study that has polled business owners and corporations about their view of and respect for business degrees online, or any online degrees. There is just no literature on this topic. Now, I have added this to my potential list of things to do when I find the time (ok, well, someday I'll find the time), but in the short term I did an unofficial poll. I asked four business professionals that I know - a self employed real estate broker, an engineer, a veterinarian, and a construction contractor - for their opinion.

This was far less than scientific, as all these people know me and know what I do. But, I asked for specifics in their own words and three out of the four told me that they felt that online learning is rigorous and valuable, and in fact, all four of them felt that they do not have the self-discipline necessary to be successful in online education. The fourth person (the engineer, who is also, ironically, my brother) proceeded to basically tell me that he seriously questions the validity of online degrees and that he is unsure that my chosen field is valid. Yep. He said that.

Let's Try to Draw Some Conclusions

To be blunt, we simply have no proof that online learning is viewed as credible. My unofficial poll revealed that about 25% of professionals do not feel business degrees online - or any online degree, for that matter - are particularly credible. But the other 75% felt they were highly credible and rigorous. Unfortunately, there is a complete lack of clinical, unbiased research on this topic. The one thing that I do know is that thousands of people graduate from online programs every year. Thus, the business world will soon be filled with those who have online degrees; that has to mean something.

Have you read any research about the credibility of online degrees? Or, has a business person given you their opinion?

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