online learning Krannert's online programs focus on team-based course designs, experiential learning, and superior student services, all in a flexible fully online format necessary for working professionals. (Stock photo)

Going Virtual

School expands its portfolio of online degree programs

While many schools temporarily shifted to online-only instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management continued to build its virtual presence with the addition of several online master’s programs.

In addition to its existing online MS in Economics program, the Krannert School began offering a two-year, fully online MBA program in January 2020. The school next added an online MS in Business Analytics in August 2020, followed by online MS programs in both Human Resource Management and Global Supply Chain Management in January 2021. 

The Purdue Online MBA sets the bar for Krannert other online master’s programs. Classes are taught in seven-week segments and the program offers rolling admissions, meaning students can join at different times during each school year. The program focuses on team-based course designs, experiential learning, and superior student services, all in a flexible fully online format necessary for working professionals.

Students in the program have access to the Purdue Foundry, which helps entrepreneurs move ideas to the marketplace more quickly, as well as Purdue’s Discovery Park, where researchers from across campus collaborate to create solutions for a better world.

“We believe the Purdue Online MBA is a perfect fit with the strengths of Purdue University,” says David Hummels, the Dr. Samuel R. Allen Dean of the Krannert School. “The program's focus on technology and innovation is ideal for students with a STEM background or any student seeking career-changing opportunities with high-tech companies.

“The program is designed to be flexible and student-centric, to feature extensive engagement with the same faculty who teach in Krannert’s highly ranked residential programs, and to go beyond the classroom with experiential learning in our corporate and technology commercialization consultancies.”

Professor Dilip Chhajed, associate dean for online programs, emphasizes the program’s commitment to its students.

“We know students are looking for value, and our program provides high return on investment for students both in terms of money and also how they spend their time,” Chhajed says. “Small classes help our career coaches develop more individualized plans and relationships with students, allow students to interact with faculty in live sessions, and have their voices heard in discussion forums.”

The program’s success is reflected in its enrollment, which is split nearly evenly between men and women. The first cohort in spring 2020 numbered 23 students, while enrollment for spring 2021 has more than doubled to 57 students. Among the latest cohort, 28 students come from STEM backgrounds.

Increased demand has also led to increased course offerings. Since its inception, 27 new courses have been developed for the Online MBA program. Although the COVID-19 pandemic likely contributed to the program’s growth, Chhajed says the Purdue brand was the biggest driver.

“We have strong name recognition and the market is more mature,” he says. “I think the hesitation that many people had earlier about online has now lessened because of the experience they had working virtually during the pandemic.”

Shared experiences, flexibility key to success

The students in the Online MBA program’s inaugural cohort come from diverse backgrounds but share similar opinions about the experience.

Brian Birdsall, who earned a degree in civil engineering from Purdue, is division manager for a large construction company in Wake Forest, North Carolina.  He began considering an MBA more than a decade ago, including both weekend MBA and executive programs. “Online wasn’t even an option then,” he says.

“I eventually reached a crossroads in my career,” Birdsall says. “Did I want to stay in construction or move to a different industry? Did I want to go to somewhere else geographically? All options were on the table.”

When he learned about Purdue’s Online MBA program, he knew he had found the right environment to answer those questions. “As an engineer with business experience, I had a desire to gain a more formal knowledge of business, decision-making and leadership,” he says. “Purdue was one of the first to offer a formal program that fit my criteria.”

As a member of the first cohort of students in the program, Birdsall finds the numerous professional interactions it offers to be surprising. “The group was intimate enough that we got to know each other in our first business analytics class,” he says. “I think the engagement has only increased since then. We’re a proud group and are all here because we want to be here.”

Adam English earned his undergraduate degree from Purdue in selling and sales management, building a satisfying career as a vice president and senior financial advisor with Merrill Lynch in Naples, Florida.

“I think it’s important to always educate and prove yourself, so I knew there was something I was missing,” English says. “I always wanted to go to Krannert, so when the Online MBA became available, it was the perfect fit. It is teaching me valuable skills to be a more informed business leader and to be competitive today and in the future.”

For an online program in the time of COVID, English says the network he is building is impressive and diverse. “Making connections with people from different backgrounds and industries allows us to pool resources and talents,” he says.

English describes the program as “tough,” but says the coursework is already making an impact. “Working in a cohort has given me the opportunity to further develop my existing skills,” he says. “I’ve also increased my understanding of business analytics and accounting.”

Although English intends to remain in his current role with Merrill Lynch, he says Purdue’s Online MBA will help him build and manage his team in a changing business environment. “I’m in a better position to grow as a leader,” he says.

Matthew Kern, who recently earned his BS in industrial engineering from Bradley University, is completing his second rotation in Lockheed Martin’s Operation Leadership Development Program while pursuing his Purdue Online MBA.

Among the youngest members of his cohort, Kern is learning on two fronts — his first job and the virtual realm of online education.

“A lot of people say, ‘Wait five years to go back to school.’ That was always something that I had thought about, too,” Kern says. “However, I saw many of my peers doing it — going through an MBA program while excelling at work. I am also very ambitious and devoted to my career. Now is the time that I want to spend to earn an MBA and get the best experience as possible, rather than waiting five years when family and other things start to happen in my life.”

One of his earliest lessons in the program was balancing his work life at Lockheed Martin with his student life in Purdue’s Online MBA program.

“When I get home from work, I don’t have much bandwidth other than to eat, hopefully work out, and go to bed. Then I get back up at 4:30 in the morning,” Kern says. “A lot of my time now is spent on weekends doing schoolwork. That’s where the Purdue program has been so helpful for me — the flexibility. I truly could not be in a course now that would require me to sit in a classroom twice a week.”

NEXT: Online Business Analytics program attracts data enthusiasts

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