Building Questrom’s Online MBA
Boston University and its Questrom School of Business had an innovative and progressive vision in 2020: to launch the University’s first Online MBA (OMBA) with a disruptive price tag of $24,000.
With support from Digital Learning & Innovation’s (DL&I) Digital Initiatives and Educational Technology teams, Questrom’s OMBA project launched the inaugural fall 2020 online program with a global cohort of nearly 400—twice the size of the original forecast.
In January 2021, the OMBA program hit several new milestones including:
2021 cohort: Questrom welcomed a second cohort of 406 students to the spring 2021 OMBA Orientation and first academic module (“Creating Value for Business and Society”), with the first cohort continuing on to the second module (“Managing Performance with Data”).
Retention: 96% of OMBA 1 students (August 2020 cohort) are enrolled in module 2.
Satisfaction: OMBA 1 students reported student satisfaction (4.13 out of 5) on the final course evaluation.
Evaluation: Over half of OMBA 1 respondents to the final course evaluation (52%) said the value of Questrom’s OMBA program either exceeds or far exceeds the cost.
Community support: Slightly more than 100 OMBA students signed up to be Admission Ambassadors.
“With Questrom’s Online MBA, Boston University has dynamically and successfully entered the promising, yet largely unexplored, space of ‘affordable degrees at scale,’” says Digital Learning & Innovation Associate Provost Chris Dellarocas. “DL&I’s mission is not only to help Questrom offer this ambitious new degree but also to develop institutional capacity that will enable BU to offer scalable quality education to a global audience at a more affordable price point in the near future.”
A key challenge of large-scale online programs is offering students an engaging, personalized experience with sustainable resource requirements. Throughout the initial 15-month OMBA project development process, learning designers and media producers from the Digital Initiatives team worked with program faculty, learning facilitators, and relevant staff on the multimedia production, course design, and building of the OMBA.
“We are thrilled to be working with a cutting-edge, integrated MBA curriculum—one that leverages the expertise of Questrom faculty and offers the design opportunities of an at-scale, rigorous experience for the contemporary global learner,” says Digital Initiatives Director Romy Ruukel. “The collaboration between our Instructional Production Services group and Questrom faculty and staff is resulting in a program that challenges the status quo of MBA offerings, leveraging peer interaction and online communities to offer a highly engaging student experience at scale.”
DL&I’s Eduational Technology team supports the project by investigating and implementing a technology infrastructure that supports the program’s unique needs. These technologies include Blackboard as the Learning Management System (LMS)—the primary delivery method for the online courses; Yellowdig, a tool used for discussions and community building; and FeedbackFruits to enable rich peer feedback, a cornerstone of the at-scale- program. The latter two are built into Blackboard as Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) tools, which allow for seamless interfacing between Blackboard and the other selected tools.
Overcoming Obstacles & Responding to COVID-19
In March 2020, as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, BU abruptly transitioned to a remote teaching and learning environment. This massive campus-wide undertaking also impacted the production of Questrom’s Online MBA.
“COVID-19 added an extra challenge to all of our production schedules, recording space allocations, and, of course, precautionary procedures and processes,” adds Ruukel.
The OMBA team of 40+, including 19 from DL&I, continue to adapt to new or changing health and safety requirements; continually address production changes, logistical challenges, and new technology requirements; and keep the project moving forward.
“Every aspect of this program has been new or encountered an unexpected change, from an innovative curriculum and additional staff members joining our team to technology pilots and procedures to meet necessary pandemic protocols,” says Ruukel. “In light of all that, everyone has done and continues to do a fantastic job under tremendous pressure and high expectations.”
Unveiling the OMBA & Looking Ahead
August 2, 2020, marked the start of Questrom’s Online MBA Orientation for the inaugural cohort, followed by an equally impressive cohort of 406 in January 2021.
Looking ahead, Susan Fournier, Allen Questrom Professor and Dean of the Questrom School of Business, is optimistic that by 2023, Questrom could welcome upwards of 1,000 Online MBA students—more than the University’s on-campus MBA programs.
For DL&I, Ruukel says Instructional Production Services will continue to collaborate on the design and production of all of the upcoming modules— the sixth of which will launch in summer 2022. ” Our team is dedicated to supporting the program through some of the necessary modifications until it reaches a steady state in the coming years,” Ruukel says.