According to a 2017 study from the Graduate Management Admissions Council, applications and enrollment in graduate business programs with larger class sizes are on the rise. The study, “Application Trends Survey,” found that graduate programs with class sizes of 200 students or more saw a 73% uptick in applications in 2017, Business Because reported. On the other hand, graduate business programs (including MBAs) with class sizes of 50 students or less only saw a modest 39% increase in applications that year.
What does this mean for class sizes for MBA students? Although there appears to be more interest in bigger programs with more expansive class sizes, this approach isn’t necessarily beneficial for everyone. Some students, including those involved in online MBA programs, appreciate a smaller class size which can foster closer collaboration with peers and better connections with educators.
Today, we’re examining the impact that class size can have on an online MBA, including the benefits of a small class size and how to choose an online MBA program.
Class size in online programs
A traditional on-campus higher education experience can be incredibly varied, and include smaller, more intimate classes and labs, as well as much larger lecture halls with potentially hundreds of students in attendance.
However, when it comes to online programs, class size and the advantages of small classes versus larger groups of students, are still something educators are working out. Inside Higher Ed contributor Wayne D’Orio points out that many colleges and universities have considerably expanded their online program offerings within the last few years. In one case, a university that only offered 13 online courses in 2010 grew its portfolio to more than 190 by 2017.
This rise in demand has encouraged a new focus on class size and the factors that impact the number of students in each course. Stephen C. Head, chancellor of Lone Star College, a community college in Texas, told D’Orio that educators and administrators need to ensure that highly in-demand courses — which typically have somewhat larger class sizes, but still much smaller than a typical lecture-hall experience — don’t include more students than the program and educator can handle. “Colleges have to consider whether the academic needs of the student are met,” D’Orio writes.
Through interviews with higher education faculty members, Inside Higher Ed discovered that many institutions set their own rules when it comes to online class sizes. Some experts like Russ Poilin, director of policy and analysis at the WICHE Cooperative for Education Technology, argue that 20 to 25 students is the ideal number for an online course setting. Others like Steve Covello, an online instructor at a New Hampshire college, said smaller class sizes of about 12 to 15 students are best.
Benefits of small class size
When it comes to how to choose an online MBA program, students should consider the key advantages of smaller class sizes, including:
- More opportunities to connect with instructors and peers: Online programs often include interactions with other students through online discussion boards or group projects. In addition, students may also need or appreciate the ability to connect with their course instructor over email, phone, or other means of communication. Larger class sizes can make these interactions a struggle and cause important comments to be overlooked. In a smaller class, there are more opportunities for students to have meaningful and valuable discussions with their peers, as well as more fruitful interactions with their professor or instructor.
- Potential for more specialization: As AdmitMaster notes, a smaller MBA program can be highly specialized and include courses that align with specific industries or subject matter within their curriculum. Larger programs that need to serve a more expansive array of student needs and interests may be more general or basic compared to smaller, more specialized graduate programs. “[S]ome world-class MBA programs … may not be as well known as Harvard or INSEAD, but are much more focused, practice-oriented, and have [an] excellent reputation in their field — many graduates from these smaller specialized programs have multiple job offers from the best companies in their industries before graduation,” AdmitMaster states.
- Stronger alumni network: Thanks to the ability to better connect with peers and educators, MBA programs with smaller classes also result in a more robust network for alumni. Students in smaller online classes can get to know each other better and foster stronger networking relationships. In this way, the alumni associations and postgraduate opportunities may come easier for students who take part in smaller classes.
MBA class size comparison is an important factor when selecting an online program. In addition to having better access to educators and opportunities to connect with peers, smaller classes can also translate to more effectiveness in addressing key subject matters and a better learning environment for students.
To find out more about the benefits of small class size and how this might impact your studies through the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business online Master of Business Administration, connect with one of our expert enrollment coaches today.