Business Management: Online management courses still don’t enjoy the full confidence of students or recruiters. Here’s why and what needs to change.
Sanjay | November 13, 2022 | 02:08 PM IST
NEW DELHI: Zubair Khan, 30, completed a postgraduate course in management online from a Kerala-based institute between 2016 and 2017. After switching many jobs over the last four years, he is currently working in a private entertainment company in Mumbai, Maharashtra. He “did not find any contribution of the online management qualification” in his career, he said.
Khan graduated in civil engineering from a Bhopal college and landed a job in a construction firm in 2016. With no time for a conventional master’s degree, he was advised to pursue a management course online.
“My friends told me this will help in career growth and salary. I did the one-year executive MBA course online,” Khan told Careers360. “The institute provided me with recorded lectures and used to give assignments. It was boring and I could not understand the concepts properly. I did not see any impact on my job prospects either.”
According to market experts, middle and upper management employees are seeing career growth due to MBA degrees. Working professionals are pursuing online MBAs – two-year or executive – from a host of online education platforms and institutes, because it allows them to study while keeping their jobs. Since 2018, the higher education regulator, University Grants Commission (UGC), has allowed 66 universities and institutions to offer full-fledged degrees online. Till date, 13 MBA degree programmes have been approved.
However, an online MBA or management course is less valuable than a regular one in the job market, especially for entry-level applicants. Employment opportunities are fewer or unequal, with many online courses leaving students with fewer skills and exposure. The presence of a great variety of courses with little standardisation or regulation does not help.
Students opting for online MBAs priortise cost and flexibility. They get theoretical knowledge and interact online with peers and professors.
Debendra Rout, professor at Shobhit University, Meerut, which is planning to launch an online MBA next year, said that for entry-level management positions, companies prefer candidates with regular offline degrees. “This is due to practical applicability of courses in real life and companies minutely and carefully observe candidates,” he said.
Sunny Singh from Delhi was preparing for government jobs after graduating from Delhi University in 2018. “I cleared the preliminary and main parts of a few exams but not the interviews. I applied for private jobs but I could not get any. A cousin advised me to get an online MBA degree from an online platform. During the Covid-19 pandemic, I enrolled in an MBA course and I completed the two-year course in April 2022. The fee was around Rs 3 lakh,” he said.
Singh applied for jobs and was called for interviews in some. He finally got a job in August 2022.
“I was rejected by two-three companies where I was told I did not have the required skills and experience. It was frustrating. My cousin helped clear many concepts that I could not fully understand in online classes. He also helped me prepare for interviews,” recalled Singh. “Now I have a job in a private firm in the national capital. However, my position and salary are lower than that of employees with full-time regular MBA degrees.”
Sudhir Kumar Das, chartered accountant (CA) and founder of Delhi-based accounting firm PAMS and Associates, said it is expected that an online MBA will impart skills by enabling students to work on projects and real-life business scenarios.
“However, since the last few years, we are witnessing that people are enrolling in online courses in the name of adding some more qualifications to their resume. They just pay money, do nothing and get a certificate which is actually a sham… Students who enrol for an MBA online course suffer most because it is among the most costly courses,” said Das.
Even though many online platforms promise guaranteed placements in major companies to their MBA graduates, students like Mayank Sharma are reluctant to enrol. This was despite testimonials from “successful candidates” who secured “high-paying jobs in big companies” on the website.
Sharma was planning to do an online MBA course from UpGrad to “add more educational qualifications” in his resume. “I checked about its viability with my siblings and friends. I came to know that companies give preference to candidates from Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) [regular MBA] and not to those with online degrees. I spoke to those who have already done the online MBA. After listening to their views, I decided not to go ahead with my plans,” he said. Sharma, from Delhi, works in an online gaming company.
The Covid-19 pandemic erased many of the differences between online and offline for about a year. Everyone at every institute shifted online. This complicated the placement process, said Aakash Bharadwaj from Ghaziabad and currently working in a private company in Hyderabad.
Bhardwaj was enrolled in PGDM in finance at IMT Ghaziabad from 2019 to 2021. He was in the regular, offline course but due to the pandemic his classes were shifted online. He believes this delayed his getting a job.
“Offline MBA courses are better than online ones. In online mode, you have attention and focus issues. Offline, you can concentrate more. Speaking in front of an audience, making presentations, boosts your confidence. Collaborations with classmates for projects are executed better offline. You meet many students and alumni and get an idea about industry’s trends and demands. These things give you an edge over online MBA degree holders,” Bharadwaj explained. “After my classes were shifted online, I could not grasp everything taught. This resulted in me failing to clear job tests. I had to work on improving my skills with help from seniors. With hard work, I got a job this year. I can understand the problems faced by an online MBA degree holder in getting jobs.”
The best-known business schools typically acknowledge these lacunae and state openly that the online programme is for working professionals or those with several years of experience. Some might open admission only to those with experience.
Rout agreed that it is mostly working people who opt for an online MBA to get a raise in salary or a new position. “The institutes offering online MBA should address the practical parts of various concepts,” he said. “The online MBA course material needs to be modified to match the regular offline MBA. Online mode is good if one attends lectures with full focus. If you have a good academic record, you will definitely get good jobs.”
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