Home Online Business Blog Understanding the Online MBA Curriculum: Courses and Real-world Applications

Understanding the Online MBA Curriculum: Courses and Real-world Applications

30 May
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Do you have what it takes to solve complex problems that businesses face today? Do you have the confidence to take strategic risks against critics within your organization? Whether you’re interested in the C-suite or founding a non-profit venture, an MBA can take you where you want to go.

MBA degrees are widely known for their prestige, value and diversity of applications. They usually are geared toward business professionals who want to move up in leadership or develop a new set of skills for a new position. Each MBA program differs in its focuses, but most will give you deep expertise in financial management, business development, marketing management, strategy and more.

An MBA Success Story

American business leader Indra Nooyi leveraged the skills she gained from an MBA at companies like Johnson and Johnson and BCG. She landed the top spot at Pepsi in 2006 as one of the first female CEOs and, therefore, had to create her own playbook.1 During her 24-year-tenure, she developed a strategic redirection at the company called Performance with Purpose and ultimately grew sales by 80%.2,3 She was not afraid to make bold moves, such as acquiring healthier product lines like Tropicana and a merger with the Quaker Oats Company.2 She steered the company toward eco-friendly practices, including 100 percent renewable energy at its facilities.2

If you choose to pursue an MBA degree like Nooyi, you will not only gain business fundamentals, but also more modern and specialized skills that can help move your business into the future. With MBA programs prioritizing experiential learning as part of the curriculum, you will also learn how to think like a leader.4 With that mindset, you will be better prepared to lead an organization toward growth and profitability, especially in uncertain times.

With all of the promise and potential an MBA brings, let's take a closer look at the core curriculum and how exactly it can benefit your career.

Unlocking Success: Navigating the Online MBA Curriculum

MBA programs typically offer a multifaceted curriculum, which includes core business subjects, to develop leadership skills. Courses in organizational behavior enhance understanding of group dynamics and effective team management. Strategy courses teach decision-making and vision-setting abilities crucial for leadership roles. Marketing and finance courses provide insights into market analysis, resource allocation and strategic planning.

You will learn essential skills, such as how to:5

  • Create a company culture that attracts and retains top talent
  • Use design thinking to ideate, develop and implement solutions to difficult business problems
  • Develop strategies to increase sales of your products and services
  • Promote and maintain the company’s positive image or reinvent it based on new values and priorities

By taking a broad range of courses—such as leadership, financial accounting, marketing, and operations management—MBA students gain exposure to diverse skill sets and real-world scenarios. During your MBA journey, you can discover strengths and interests you didn’t know you had. These experiences can help shape your career trajectory and development as a leader.

Real-world Applications: Bridging Theory and Practices

Using William and Mary's Online MBA as an example, the MBA curriculum combines theoretical knowledge with practical applications, developing students into well-rounded leaders who can navigate complex business challenges, which include supply chain disruptions. For example, ecommerce founder Ahmed Shabana entered an MBA program after launching Instapill, a healthcare product supplier.6 While taking supply chain courses, the entrepreneur read business cases about Zara’s just-in-time production model, a cost-cutting strategy he might not have discovered on his own.6

From design thinking to wicked problem-solving, course assignments are designed to be relevant to students’ workplaces. You can expect to have immediate opportunities to apply strategies you are learning in class and make tangible impacts on operations or other areas of the business.

"I just completed the Business Analytics course, and that helped me dig into the numbers that I see daily and how to see, work and play with the data that we as a company have currently and what we will have in the future," says Benjamin H., Director of Transportation Operations, Carolina Tank Lines, Mason MBA '20. "In Global Managerial Economics, the curriculum played a key role in what I do because our economy and the trucking industry are basically tied together. If the economy is slow, then the trucking industry is going to be slow. For instance, the trade wars and the North American Free Trade Agreement not being ratified puts a lot of constrictions on the economy and on the trucking industry because it restricts our ability to deliver freight."

Other MBA experiences that integrate theory with practice include:7,8

  • Case Method: Encourages students to think critically by analyzing business decisions that real leaders have made. In an online course, students may debate the pros and cons of a business strategy through discussion boards or forums.
  • Capstone Projects: Involves in-depth research, analysis and development of actionable recommendations to solve complex business issues for an organization.
  • Experiential Learning: Reinforces classroom learning through internships, consulting projects or simulations, providing MBA grads with specific achievements to highlight during interviews.

Online Learning: Embracing Technology and Flexibility

For individuals with non-traditional lifestyles, online MBA programs remove barriers to higher education. If you’re juggling a full-time job, are a busy parent or have other needs and responsibilities, online learning gives you the chance to engage with MBA coursework on your terms.9

Online MBA courses often leverage cutting-edge technology to enhance curriculum delivery. This creates a rich and interactive experience, with unlimited access to lecture materials and resources.9 In fact, studies have shown that students can learn material faster when they have easy access to recorded lectures and other course materials.9

Networking in the Online MBA Environment: Building Bridges

One of the invaluable aspects of pursuing an online MBA is the networking opportunities it offers. Students have the chance to build professional connections, engage with alumni networks and establish industry connections. These networks serve as catalysts for career growth, providing avenues for collaboration, mentorship, professional development and career advancement.

Follow these tips to become a networking pro:10

  • Virtual study groups: Form groups where you can discuss projects and share tips with your classmates. Take advantage of platforms such as Facebook, Slack and Whatsapp to facilitate communication and collaboration.
  • Online discussions: Actively participate in forums to find potential study partners and gain fresh insights and perspectives by reading your peers’ posts.
  • Live lectures/guest speaker sessions: Benefit from a classroom-like experience and Q&A opportunities, which are designed to maximize learning and networking opportunities.
  • On-campus events: Foster teamwork and connect with peers and faculty outside formal settings to build relationships.
  • Alumni networking: Seek mentoring from alumni, who can share their career journeys and offer advice.

Your peers in an online MBA program will likely bring varied expertise in areas ranging from engineering and economics to social sciences and humanities. Through discussions, events and consulting projects, you will become part of a dynamic learning environment designed to reflect real-world interdisciplinary teamwork and perspectives.

The Future of Online MBA Education: Trends and Innovations

As online MBA programs continue to evolve, they adapt to global changes and embrace innovative trends. From specialized concentrations that offer a serious competitive advantage in the job market, to experiential learning opportunities that bridge theory with practice, the future of online MBA education is dynamic and responsive to the evolving needs of the business world.

Whether you’ve had success as an entrepreneur or are a non-business major, the online MBA curriculum equips you with the knowledge, tools, skills and networks needed to be an innovative leader that drives an organization’s success.

An MBA for Real-World Problem-Solvers at William & Mary

Gain the skills you need to tackle today’s business challenges and the innovative perspective to design tomorrow’s solutions. Complete your online MBA in as little as two years in the acclaimed Raymond A. Mason School of Business.

The Online MBA degree program blends the best of William & Mary—a "Public Ivy" education, world-class faculty, small classes and a close-knit, global community—with the convenience of an online program.

For more information, schedule an appointment with an admissions outreach advisor today.