Online Version of McIntire Business Institute Off to a Strong Start

Building on more than three decades of success with its McIntire Business Institute, an intensive certificate program offering top-quality instruction in the fundamentals of business to non-business students and the general public, the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce Foundation has launched a new online version of the program.

MBI Online, which held its inaugural virtual class May 25, joins two popular classroom-based sessions of the program, one of which is held during the summer and the other  throughout the academic year.  At $5,100, tuition for all three MBI programs is the same; a limited number of partial scholarships are available for the non-online programs. 

“With MBI Online, we’re able to reach people – whether they’re liberal arts students or working professionals – who want to learn the language, concepts and practice of business, but don’t have the time to attend our traditional five-week summer MBI program or to come to our weekly classes throughout the academic year,” said program director Mark White, a finance professor. “We’re bringing the McIntire School to folks who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it.”

MBI Online’s 30 hours of pre-recorded lectures and accompanying non-grade-based assignments and exercises are meant to be completed over the course of 15 weeks; lectures and coursework can be completed according to the demands of students’ schedules.

Shared DNA

Like the classroom version, the new online program features top-quality instruction in marketing, accounting, finance and Excel, and management. Moreover, just as in-class students are able to participate in lively classroom discussions, online students have the opportunity to pipe up in an online discussion forum, as well as to post questions and submit coursework online to instructors. In keeping with the institute’s traditional program, online students have access to outstanding career-planning services, including individually tailored job-search guidance and access to workshops on resumé-writing and interviewing.

The online version and both the condensed summer and extended classroom versions of the program “are really comparable,” White said, noting that students in all three programs are awarded the same certificate of completion. “The differences aren’t so much in content, but in delivery.”

Convenience Factor

Indeed, White said, it’s the high-value coursework taught by McIntire’s outstanding faculty members, combined with the convenience and flexibility offered by online learning, that he hopes will draw motivated students and working professionals to MBI Online.

“By offering a solid foundational knowledge of key business concepts, MBI is designed to enhance its students’ career opportunities,” he said. “Our feeling is that there’s a sizeable number of people who recognize that they could benefit significantly from attending MBI – and now they can, online.”

Maria Chee, already more than halfway through the brand-new MBI Online program, is just such a person. Chee, who serves as director of program quality at U.Va.’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, said MBI Online met her needs for a convenient, high-quality online business course that would enable her to bring more effective market and financial analyses to her work.

“I was attracted to McIntire’s online coursework for several reasons,” Chee said. “First, the program takes about three months to finish, in contrast to two semesters of face-to-face instruction. Second, it eliminates travel time and suits my work schedule. And finally, I can keep up with the coursework even if I’m out of town.”

Chee also said she appreciates many of the features of the “virtual” classroom, such as the ability to slow down or repeat key points in a lecture, or even to download lecture transcripts. More, she said, she’s come to enjoy the particular mode of interaction characteristic of online discussion boards, which she says helps to maintain a feeling of connection and engagement.

Taken as a whole, Chee said, MBI Online is “highly effective for someone motivated and disciplined to ‘go it on your own.’”

White said that MBI Online, while an attractive option for many, may not be right for everyone. “If you’re a liberal arts student who can spare five weeks of your summer or a U.Va. student who can come to class every Friday, our traditional MBI offerings remain a very appealing way to experience the energy and enthusiasm of the McIntire Business Institute,” he said. “But if you want instruction from top-quality faculty at a top-quality business school and convenient scheduling is a paramount concern, then MBI Online would be a great fit.”

Learning Process

White says that MBI Online is off to a strong start, but – along with the rest of the online learning space – remains something of a work in progress. He and the rest of the institute’s faculty and design team will continue to monitor and refine MBI Online’s interactive elements, as well as to closely consider what pedagogical methods work best in the online sphere.

“We’re excited to see how the things we’ve done so well face-to-face translate into an online environment,” he said, noting the numerous challenges – and significant benefits – of crafting the vivid, highly distilled coursework demanded by online education. “We want to be sure we’re conveying the thrill that comes from learning the language and concepts of business – that feeling of excitement you get when suddenly so many things start to make sense.”

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Mary Summers Whittle

Senior Writer