Gies iMBA named #1 business school innovation of last decade

Aug 13, 2020, 09:01 AM

For more than 100 years, Gies College of Business has been committed to creating life-changing access to business education. That drives innovation and a push to deliver great business content in bold, new ways. Business education publication Poets&Quants ranked the Gies online MBA (iMBA) as the world’s #1 Biggest Business School Innovation of the Decade, ahead of other known innovators like Harvard, Virginia (Darden), and California (Haas). Here’s what P&Q Editor-in-Chief John Byrne said about the iMBA:

“Despite the bare-bones price, Gies put its most senior faculty into the online courses, having them hold weekly live Internet classes and office hours, with occasional city meetups between students and faculty, and a portfolio of elective courses with eight different specializations, including a new data analytics track in spring 2019. All for a price at which rival programs are generally stripped down digital textbooks with no live classes, trips, or electives.” 

Designed from the ground up and launched in 2016, the iMBA brought together top scholars with educational experts and technological innovators to create a new kind of online education. Pairing a high-quality curriculum with a deeply engaging experience for students, the program grew from just 114 students in its first year to nearly 3,000 students last year.

“Gies set out to invent a new way of delivering a top-quality business education that would fulfill our mission of serving students in Illinois and around the world, in a way that meets their needs and the needs of today’s business world,” said Dean Jeffrey Brown. “We’ve disrupted our own industry, and the market has responded by rewarding us with demand and growth far beyond what we would have predicted.”

The iMBA curriculum includes both asynchronous content on the Coursera platform, and live, interactive sessions that both students and faculty say are more personal and engaging than many in-person classes they’ve taken or taught. Combined with online office hours and heavy on team projects that bring together participants from around the world, all at a price that is a fraction of what they would pay at most residential MBA programs, the iMBA consistently earns satisfaction ratings near 100 percent from students.

College officials say student satisfaction and real-time return on investment are driving the tremendous growth in applications. A survey of 2019 graduates showed that 53 percent had received a promotion, job offer or accepted a new position during their time in the iMBA program, while graduates saw their pay increase an average of 20 percent during the course of their studies.

Gies recently published a comprehensive data set designed to measure the iMBA against its own mission and goals, so that prospective students, among others, can make their own assessment of the program. At the same time, the college announced that it would not take part in traditional online MBA rankings, which value different qualities.