UF MBA continues to innovate with new program

The Warrington College of Business has long prioritized innovation within the educational experience. The College’s newest program – a fully online MBA program that requires zero campus visit for students – is just the latest example.

While the program has served as a pioneer in the online MBA industry and later developed professional MBA programs that require only one campus visit per month, Dean John Kraft wanted to ensure that the College remained in front of the competition.

UF MBA’s new fully online program, which started in the summer of 2018, ensures that there truly is a program option for every interested prospective student.

“What became obvious to us was the market for professional degrees is a large group of the people who consume degrees in different ways,” Kraft said. “Some aren’t able to come to campus once a month. We also noticed that they are more used to and open to learning through technology.”

Some students prioritize the on-campus experience where they can have face-to-face interaction with classmates, faculty and staff at Warrington. For others, that isn’t as much of a priority. Professional and family obligations can also cause hesitations for students interested in an MBA because it’s tough for them to make it to Gainesville one weekend per month.

The request for the fully online MBA program came directly from student feedback. They wanted the degree; they just weren’t able to make time to get to campus as often as the online or professional programs required. The fully online program gives those students the option to receive an MBA in their ideal environment.

“We saw what our student population wanted and provided it,” said John Gresley, director of UF MBA programs. “This was about better fitting what we do to meet what students were wanting out of their MBA experience.”

The priority was to offer this flexible education while maintaining the integrity and reputation of the UF MBA program.

The MBA staff had to determine the curriculum and figure out which courses would be the right ones to offer. Faculty members also had to be comfortable teaching a fully online class and be aware of how to use the tools available to them.

Megan Leroy and her team at Warrington’s Teaching and Learning Center faced two significant challenges to help the program come to fruition. They needed to help faculty members get their course content pared down from their usual 12-week classes to fit into the new five-week course length, as well as assist them at becoming comfortable teaching online. Each faculty member had access to an instructional designer for support, easing the transition and helping them make the most of a five-week course.

The Teaching and Learning Center also wanted to help students feel a part of The Gator Nation through the program. Even though students wouldn’t be required to ever step foot on campus in Gainesville, they were still becoming a Business Gator. Leroy’s team wanted to ensure they felt that connection to the university that on-campus students have when they graduate.

To overcome that hurdle, they targeted changes to orientation. Instead of an on-campus, three-day orientation other UF MBA programs require, the Teaching and Learning Center filmed videos from iconic points on the UF campus to provide the necessary information for students before they began the program. The Center also matched the orientation website to the marketing materials students received when they were considering the program and even after being accepted, providing a similar feel and online experience from start to finish.

“Even though students aren’t going to be here and may never set foot on campus, we want them to feel like a Warrington Gator,” Leroy said.

The changes are paying off. With 49 students in the inaugural class that started in the summer of 2018, Warrington is impacting students with unique backgrounds that never would’ve been able to pursue an MBA at the College before the fully online program was implemented.

“We are truly reaching an audience that we haven’t before,” Leroy said. “We are impacting students with many different experiences and specialized backgrounds from all over the world. They have impressive backgrounds in jobs that keep them from ever coming to campus. It’s a new audience that seems excited about the product.”

The program’s introduction also opens the door for Warrington’s specialty master’s programs to begin offering online options in the near future.

“We want to make our products available to quality students with the best experiences and products that meet market needs,” Kraft said.