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Interview: Dr. Joe Bocchi, D.A., Georgia WebMBA��

Dr. Joe Bocchi, D.A., is Director and Senior Lecturer at Georgia WebMBA based in Roanoke Virginia. Dr. Joe joins us to discuss the Georgia WebMBA program.

1. The Georgia WebMBA is unique in that it connects students with five different Georgia colleges that offer online MBA degrees. Could you elaborate further on the process in which administrators decide which program at which school will best meet a potential student's needs?

The Georgia WebMBA, as a group of five schools offering a single joint online MBA program, relies on each school's own admissions criteria to screen and accept students into the common program. The per-school admissions criteria are based on individual campus MBA entrance requirements, which ensures consistency in the entrance level quality of students at each school. The criteria are very similar across the five schools, since we are all accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; however, there are minor differences among schools in GMAT and GPA minimum requirements, and in the formulas used for acceptance. Administrators do not decide the school through which applicants apply, although they do make the actual admissions decisions. The WebMBA Director will advise students on the best school to apply through based on their credentials (GMAT, GPA, and years of business experience) and their preferences for schools with national or regional reputations.

2. What Georgia universities are included in the Georgia WebMBA program?

The schools included are part of the University System of Georgia: Georgia College & State University, Georgia Southern University, Kennesaw State University, University of West Georgia, and Valdosta State University.

3. There is some debate as to whether or not online degrees are as worthwhile as traditional degrees. Has your online MBA program demonstrated that it is just as reputable and useful as traditional, campus-based degrees?

For a decade or more, the popular wisdom has been that online programs do not produce the same level results as campus programs. Also for a decade or more, popular wisdom has ignored the copious studies comparing results of online and campus courses and programs that have shown "no significant difference" in quality and outcomes.

Georgia WebMBA schools are accredited both professionally, by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, and regionally, by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Both accrediting bodies require rigorous review of the program's entrance standards, curriculum, faculty qualifications, learning objectives, and outcomes. The WebMBA program is compared with campus programs at all five schools as part of the AACSB and SACS review processes. The accreditation by AACSB ensures high levels of quality, since AACSB is the premier accrediting agency for business schools. Only 549 member institutions hold accreditation.

For two consecutive years we have been ranked in the top 20 among AACSB-accredited programs by an independent panel of geteducated.com for our quality and affordability.

As part of our quality assurance, we require students to run a simulated company online as an exit assessment. In comparison to our campus students, who also take the same assessment, WebMBA students score as well or better.

Our teams have routinely finished in the top 10 out of 500 teams in the "Capsim" challenge, in which MBA teams throughout the nation run virtual companies. In the 2004 Spring Challenge, one of our teams placed second nationally out of over 300 MBA teams. Another team placed second in the Turnaround Management Competition for the Atlanta Metro Area. Those competitions focus on application and prove our effectiveness both in and outside the "classroom"

4. What would you say are the greatest benefits of earning an MBA online rather than in a traditional classroom?

The greatest benefits of an online MBA are: increased interaction and contact hours among students and faculty, improved writing and virtual team skills, better faculty preparation and delivery, no commute time, and greater convenience and access for busy professionals who travel often in their jobs.

Contrary to many articles in newspapers and magazines, an online MBA offers more interaction among students and between students and faculty than do traditional classrooms. Brick-and-mortar programs may require only nine class hours per week, with limited e-mail access to faculty and brief office-hour contact. The Georgia WebMBA is structured with learning teams that work closely together and often. Faculty standards for the program ensure high levels of interaction through discussion boards and direct contact with students. Faculty must respond within set time limits. Our students also report that, on average, they spend 12 hours online per week per course, with an additional three hours spent with their teams and six hours on team tasks.

Related to interaction is the advantage of providing skills in areas which appear consistently on the top 10 skill lists that employers seek: written communication and teaming. Students must rely solely on written communication in a virtual team setting to discuss business concepts and develop reports, case analyses, proposals and other documents. There is not the kind of random "banter" that can occur in a traditional classroom. Also, faculty need to be more prepared and more comprehensive in their expectations, assignments, materials, and teaching. There is no room for the occasional rambling lecture or off-the-cuff diversion.

Travel time to campus prevents many potential students from attending campus MBA programs. That is not an issue with online programs. For our students, who travel for their jobs approximately nine hours per week, on average, the online access is especially important. One of our students, in fact, logged about 3 million miles on flights while he was in the program.

5. What MBA specializations are offered through the five schools that are in partnership with the Georgia WebMBA?

The Georgia WebMBA does not offer specializations, although some of our schools offer MBA programs in MIS and Accounting.

6. Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

Yes. Each of our five schools works with students to determine the best available financial aid package.

7. Do you have any advice for students who hope to pursue an online MBA upon graduation from their undergraduate program?

Finding the right online MBA is sometimes difficult. What should you look for in an online MBA? Here are questions to ask the program director or recruiting representative.

Is the school accredited professionally by AACSB?
Can the school provide me with any pre-requisites I need using online courses?
Can I complete the degree quickly?
Will a professor answer my specific questions quickly?
Is there an academic support network?
What are my financial aid options?
Does the program focus on practical application?
Is travel required for courses or exams?

8. What would you say makes the Georgia WebMBA different and better than other comparable online MBA schools?

The Georgia WebMBA is accredited both professionally and regionally, is competitively priced, requires only 30 credit hours, can be completed in 18 to 20 months, has no required campus visits for courses or exams, and relies only on tenure-track graduate faculty qualified academically by AACSB. We also offer self-paced, CD-based modules to meet pre-requisite business foundation courses for applicants who do not have undergraduate degrees in business or who may lack required courses. Our retention rate is 85%. We require strict teaching standards for every course. Team-based learning allows students to network with professionals in diverse industries and in companies from throughout the world. Teams provide a support network with a balanced range of skills and diversity. We also offer an international experience in which our students work virtually with MBA students from a German university on a global business project. That includes an exchange program. Our focus is on practical application, often in students' own companies.

For more information about Georiga WebMBA, go here to visit them online.

That concludes our interview!

Thank you Dr. Joe, for sharing and participating in this piece for Online Degrees Today 2.0

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