In only its second year of offering classes online, Lynchburg College’s master of business administration program has earned a place in the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of online MBA degrees. Lynchburg’s program is positioned 184th out of 267 colleges and universities included in the magazine’s 2018 ranking.
U.S. News & World Report ranks online MBA programs based on data collected in five categories: student engagement, admissions selectivity, peer reputation, faculty credentials and training, and student services and technology. The data is gathered, via questionnaires, from private, public, and for-profit institutions that offer online MBAs. The process also includes what the magazine describes as a “peer reputation survey.”
“It’s good to get on the list,” Dr. Lee Schimmoeller, director of Lynchburg’s MBA program, said, adding that among other things the ranking makes it easier for prospective students to find the College’s program in online searches.
The College has offered an MBA for decades, and the MBA program is ranked among CEO Magazine’s Tier One of MBA programs in North America. The MBA program first offered online classes in 2016 to provide greater flexibility to students, as well as allow students to earn the full degree online. There are currently 50 students taking MBA classes online, and online enrollment has grown so much that the program recently expanded its offerings. “It’s doing well,” Dr. Schimmoeller said, regarding interest in the program. “We had more students join last fall, so we’ve had to add classes this spring semester.”
Dr. Dan Messerschmidt, interim dean of the School of Business and Economics, said he and the other faculty are excited about the success of the online offerings so far, and they anticipate online enrollment will grow.
“The market for MBA students has become very competitive and the demands of time and distance make it imperative that we are able to meet those needs,” he said. “We are confident that we can continue to expand our offerings and enrollments to meet these needs. We have already seen a rapid growth in enrollments in the program because of the online offerings and are confident that this will continue.”
While the inaugural class of students was comprised mostly of recent Lynchburg undergraduates the College’s online MBA program has seen an increase in students from outside of that demographic. “That’s an interesting change,” Dr. Schimmoeller said. “It’s all over, a very wide mix of experience. People right out of college and people who have been in the workforce for over 20 years.”
While ranked as an online program, Dr. Schimmoeller is quick to say there’s no real distinction between the online and on-campus MBA at Lynchburg. Classes can be taken online or on campus. “You can mix and match them. We have some people who do a fair amount of that,” he said. “It’s one MBA and you can take classes online, on campus or in combination. Mix them. It kind of surprises me. We have more of that going on than we thought. It’s good. It’s just people using our flexibility.”
And even if a student chooses to do all of their classes online, they’re not truly operating alone. Faculty are full-time — no adjuncts — and can be reached easily. All online courses also involve teamwork.
“Our students seem satisfied,” Dr. Schimmoeller said. “In the online course, we try to mix interaction with the class plus the flexibility of people working on their own. All of the online courses have a component where the students will work in teams and so there’s some interaction with others and a lot of self-paced activities. They still get the experience of working with others and the professors on things, but still have a lot of activities they do on their own.”