Are MBA Aspirants ready for Online Classes? 7 Learnings from Survey

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Updated on
June 11, 2020

India is in the midst of unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. Higher education institutions were forced to shut down in Mid-March. On May 1, regulatory body AICTE issued a notification that new academic session for PGDM & MBA batch will commence on August 1, 2020. In line with Notification, B-schools have decided to not increase their tuition fee this year.


Given the COVID-19 situation that calls for strict social distancing, AICTE has permitted B-schools to start MBA/PGDM program in Online Learning mode. “The B-schools may start the regular academic session with classes conducted in online mode as per the AICTE academic calendar and later switch to physical class-room mode only after the notification is issued by MHRD,” says the AICTE circular. This is a progressive move by regulator and is in line with international practices as top global B-schools like HBS are also conducting their classes online. So, if the COVID-19 situation doesn’t improve, Indian B-schools are gearing up to start pre-MBA classes in June/July and start new batch in Online Mode on August 1.


In this context, it is important to understand the views and perceptions of a key stakeholder – the prospective MBA Student. How do MBA Aspirants view Online Learning? What are their apprehensions, and how can the B-schools do assuage them? To answer these and many more questions, conducted an Online Survey of MBA Aspirants. Survey, conducted between May 28 and June 8, received a strong response with 259 MBA Aspirants participating in 10 days.


Survey offers important learnings for Policy Makers, B-school decision-makers, Online learning platforms and other stakeholders. Here are the key learnings…


Learning #1: MBA Aspirants prefer On-Campus Learning over Online Classes
Indian MBA Aspirants are a smart lot. They understand that MBA is a professional degree and not just another academic qualification. This Survey suggest that Aspirants value MBA for the holistic experience it offers, and not just classroom learning. As a result, they prefer On-Campus learning experience over merely Online Learning.


In the survey, only 22% agree to the statement ‘Online Learning is as effective as face-to-face learning’; while 47% did not agree. Rest are undecided.


Chart 1: Effectiveness of Online Learning Vs Face-to-Face Learning

68% see starting MBA Classes in Online mode as a disadvantage to their MBA experience.


Chart 2: Is starting MBA in Online mode a disadvantage?

Learning #2: MBA Aspirants don’t prefer Online Learning because it lacks Peer-to-Peer Learning, Faculty Mentorship & Networking
Again, MBA Aspirants are clear about the value of non-classroom teaching during their MBA course. When asked why they do not prefer Online Learning, MBA Aspirants are clear and emphatic about the reasons.

  • 64% say that Online Classes will hamper Peer-to-Peer on-campus learning
  • While, 52% opine that Online Classes will hamper Mentorship by Faculty
  • And, 32% say that Networking opportunities will get lost in Online Classes

Learning #3: MBA Aspirants are not sure how Recruiters value Online Learning
Campus Placements and Internships are perhaps the biggest draw of the MBA program. Recruiters prefer MBAs as by enrolling into a competitive program, they have demonstrated interest in pursuing managerial career, and they have also picked up important business skills during their MBA by attending almost 50 intense courses, taught by experienced faculty.


No wonder, MBA aspirants are sceptical about how Industry will accept MBA education that is partially delivered online.


When asked to comment on the statement ‘Online learning is accepted as well as face-to-face courses by Recruiters’, only 26% agreed. 50% were not sure. This is perhaps the most important reason why MBA Aspirants have reservations about online delivery.


Chart 3: Is Online Learning accepted by Recruiters

Learning #4: MBA Aspirants fear missing out on ‘Fun Factor’ & Campus Experience
Life in a B-school is not just about lectures and assignments. Competitions, campus festivals, informal meetings and discussions, and socializing are all part of the MBA Experience. As a result, Batch mates develop a bond that lasts a lifetime.


When asked, ‘Online MBA takes away the fun of being on campus’, overwhelming 71% agreed to this. Clearly, Indian MBA aspirants don’t want to miss out on the fun factor.


Chart 4: Fun Factor is missing in Online Learning  

Learning #5: But, if MBA Classes are started Online, Safety and Lower Cost are a big plus
It is not that Online Education is only bad news for MBA Aspirants. They understand that online education is a safe and convenient mode of learning. They also feel that staying at home for some months during their MBA will mean lower costs.


Chart 5: Advantages of Online Mode

Learning #6: MBA Aspirants are in Financial Stress; seek Scholarships and Financial Aid
Clearly COVID-19 has impacted economy and shaken the confidence of middle-class of India. 73% of survey respondents said that they and their families are facing difficulty in paying MBA fees.


Chart 6: MBA Aspirants are facing financial difficulties

And, they expect MBA Schools and Universities to help them achieve their education goals.

  • 88% are seeking Scholarship support
  • 84% are seeking help for education loan processing
  • 78% are seeking lower campus living cost, and fees

Learning #7: MBA Aspirants are reluctant to join MBA with Online Classes
Finally, given their reservations with Online Learning and the financial stress, only 51% of MBA aspirants are ready to join MBA program if classes are started Online. 38% say they are not sure.


Chart 7: MBA Aspirants propensity to join with Online Classes

In Conclusion

  • Indian MBA Aspirants prefer Face-to-face on-campus MBA experience, over online classes, for many reasons cited above.
  • They are facing financial difficulties, and seek financial support from education institutions.
  • They are in a wait and watch mode, and only half the students confirming to join new batch in July/August.
  • B-schools should think of ways to communicate the effectiveness of Online Learning.
  • B-schools should take steps to reduce aspirant’s apprehensions regarding Recruitment and Placements if classes start online.
  • Government, Industry, NGOs and B-schools should come together to support higher education in a crisis like COVID-19.