The MBA@UNC Advantage: An Interactive Experience

(Editor’s Note: As you may have seen around the web, we have launched an ad campaign stating that “Online MBAs Aren’t Created Equal.” This is meant to callout the advantages and features that set our program apart from other online MBA programs. To further this message, MBA@UNC student Kristen Fanarakis has decided to write a series of posts highlighting her experience and what makes the MBA@UNC program stand out from the competition. This is the second post in Kristen’s series.)

When I tell people I’m earning my MBA online, they always ask, “How do you meet people? Isn’t networking part of the reason you go to business school in the first place? Why would you give up that experience?”

“Why yes, meeting classmates is an important part of business school,” I say, and explain that the idea that an online program lacks networking is one of the misconceptions about online education, at least based on my MBA@UNC experience. I describe how the diversity of my network grows in ways I couldn’t have imagined and that I don’t think would have been possible in a traditional program because the platform keeps us connected regardless of geographic location.

I also tell skeptics how the learning platform itself and global immersions help my MBA@UNC classmates and I overcome any concerns about networking. The weekly live sessions and extensive group work in every course are key aspects of the program. These requirements promote a collaborative experience and mimic the on-campus classroom environment, which ultimately differentiates UNC’s program from other online programs.

This could not be accomplished without our courses being designed for online learning and the appropriate technology. Our classes meet in a video chat room similar to a Skype group chat. While it’s not the same as sitting in the same room with classmates, it works better than you would think, and the small class sizes ensure no one gets lost in the shuffle. The professors can break the class up into smaller groups or write on the whiteboard, just like they would in a traditional classroom.

The platform is not just where classes are held, but also where we meet for group meetings and study sessions (and even virtual happy hours on occasion). Earning an MBA is not a solitary venture for me; we spend a significant amount of time with our classmates in this program. Even though I can’t meet most of my classmates at the local pub or coffee shop to catch up and not talk about homework, the platform allows us to get together socially whenever we want.

In addition to meeting up on the platform, MBA@UNC students can meet in person at the global immersions. These quarterly immersions feel as much like a reunion as a networking opportunity, which is why my total hours of sleep during the last immersion barely made it into the double digits. The weekends are filled with lectures and learning exercises centered on a particular topic such as “Leading and Managing in a High-Growth Environment,” which was the focus of the recent immersion in Brazil. The topical nature of the immersions and their actionable takeaways give us the educational benefits of an industry conference, but transcend any one industry. The immersions also help us solidify the relationships we have formed throughout our courses, adding to the social quality and the networking benefits of the program.

With the MBA@UNC platform, global immersions and the interactivity of live, online classes, I can honestly say that MBA@UNC has provided me with maximum learning opportunities, maximum networking and maximum flexibility. The idea that an online program sacrifices socializing or networking, remains a myth when it comes to MBA@UNC.  

About Kristen Fanarakis: Kristen spent the last 13 years working in financial services after graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill with a BA in economics and political science.  She started her career in investment management in Boston where she earned her masters in international economics part-time.  She spent the last seven years in foreign exchange sales covering institutional managers for various Wall Street banks.