Midland University is launching an MBA program that will have a classroom in Omaha.
The private school in Fremont, Neb., hopes to attract as many as 30 students when the program launches in January 2013. The program could add more students when it starts its regular fall program that September.
School officials are calling it a hybrid program, one that will combine classroom experience with an online component. They say it's different from programs that are either online only or classroom only.
Students would earn a Master of Business Administration degree in 16 months, meeting roughly once a month in a classroom setting with fellow students and a professor, and spending the rest of the time listening to online lectures and completing online assignments.
Midland President Ben Sasse said the format should appeal to those already in professional fields who want to complete their MBA. The idea is to give students the flexibility of online classes, yet include in-person classes to ensure they don't get lost in the shuffle.
“Omaha is very fortunate to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, and employers are competing for talent,” Sasse said. “Helping knowledge workers develop their management and analytic skills without missing a beat in their careers will be a real advantage for them.”
The MBA would join other Midland graduate programs, including a Master of Education program and Master of Accounting program. Students in the new MBA program can have an emphasis in accounting, if they wish.
“It's awesome to see this kind of program launch in Omaha,” said Roger Thompson, managing partner of Seim Johnson, an Omaha accounting firm.
The program will work like this: Students will attend classes every three weeks, on a Friday evening and all day Saturday. The rest of the time, students log in for online lectures that allow them to also ask questions during the class. The online classes will originate from the Fremont campus. If students can't arrange their schedule for all the interactive classes, they can log in at any time to listen to the lecture so they stay on track with the program.
Sasse and his team are shopping for a site to hold the Friday evening-Saturday classes. They're aiming for a business in west Omaha that would let the university use conference room space.
The program was developed by Raymond Sass, who was hired to develop and oversee the MBA program. Sass came to the campus from a consultant's position in Washington, D.C. He had completed Duke University's MBA program and used some of its format to create Midland's program.
“When it's just online, there's not enough cohesiveness,” Sass said. “It's almost too flexible, because people can say ‘I can just drop this for now.' But in person, every weekend could get tough for people with families to manage.”
At Bellevue University, its MBA program is available either online or in a traditional classroom setting. The University of Nebraska at Omaha's MBA program is not online. The UNO program takes two years to complete and students have 10 years from the time they are admitted to finish the program.
Midland's effort is part of President Sasse's ongoing effort to attract more Omahans to the school. The MBA program will cost about $29,000; Midland alumni will receive a discount, so it will cost them around $26,000.
Midland now is seeking professors for the classes. The school's format is a nine-week term, and students would take two courses each term. The school has received accreditation for the MBA program from the Higher Learning Commission, a national group that reviews standards and requirements for degree programs.
“There's some interesting things happening here,” Sass said.
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