By EDWARD HUSARHerald-Whig Staff Writer
MACOMB, Ill. -- Western Illinois University is making plans to offer seven more online MBA courses next fall.
WIU officials introduced the university's first online MBA course last summer -- an accounting class that proved exceedingly popular with off-campus students interested in getting a master's in business administration.
"We cap all of our MBA classes at 25 students, and we rarely ever fill everything. But when we put that MBA class online with a cap of 25, it filled in 12 hours," said John Drea, associate dean of WIU's College of Business and Technology.
Drea said the popularity of that initial online class mirrors a trend being seen across the nation. He said many Midwestern universities, including WIU, have been seeing a decline in traditional two-year MBA applications, while online programs have been surging.
"In response, we've been doing some things with the MBA program to do a better job of serving students and to meet the changing nature of the market," Drea said. "Most of our alumni don't reside in the Macomb area, so online delivery makes sense so the course can follow them."
He said the "convenience factor" of being able to take an MBA course from one's home computer -- rather than drive to WIU's Macomb or Quad Cities campuses -- appeals to many.
Currently, 11 classes are needed to get an MBA through WIU. In addition to the eight courses to be offered online, students also will have to take three MBA courses in traditional classrooms because those courses are not well suited to online delivery, Drea said.
"We're hoping to add more courses (online) in the future, though only where we can deliver a quality course," Drea said.
The same faculty who teach in the classroom MBA program will teach in the online program.
"We're making sure each course is interactive and delivers outcomes comparable to what is delivered in a classroom-based course," Drea said.
The new online classes will encompass marketing, finance, management, human resources and three supply-chain management classes.
Drea said the online courses will feature some recorded presentations that students can watch at their leisure, but the classes also will offer online "chat" sessions to give students a chance to ask questions of teachers.
Tests will be administered in supervised testing centers. For example, a Quincy student taking an online MBA course through WIU will be able to go to John Wood Community College's testing center to take a proctored exam. The student will have to show identification and prove he or she is the person who signed up for the course. JWCC would then provide the student with a code to use a secure computer to take WIU's test online.
Drea said WIU's online MBA courses will become available for student registration around the beginning of April.
"If it's on somebody's radar that they're interested, the best advice is probably to go ahead and fill out an application for admission," Drea said.
Any prospective student must first be admitted to the university's MBA program before they can take an online course, and getting into the MBA program "is not a slam dunk for everybody," Drea said.
He also noted that WIU has started nine "integrated degree" programs that let students earn a bachelor's degree and an MBA degree in five years. This program is open to WIU students with a grade point average of at least 3.4.
"An integrated degree program allows a high-performing college senior to start taking MBA courses during the senior year, lock in a lower graduate tuition rate, and finish both a bachelor's and an MBA degree one semester sooner," Drea said.
Drea said other universities have integrated degree programs in the same discipline, such as a bachelor's and master's both in economics.
"WIU is going further by integrating specific majors with the MBA degree," Drea said. "It took quite a bit of work and curriculum coordination, but it should help our students to save money and hit the job market sooner."
More information about these programs is available by calling Drea at (309) 298-2442.