Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:21 pm
Online MBA program was just what the doctor ordered
On May 18, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater conferred a master’s of business administration to a student who wasn’t there to accept his diploma. In fact, Dr. Jim Jacobson has never set foot on Whitewater’s campus, and he planned it that way.
Jacobson lives in Arlington, Texas. He became the first Whitewater MBA student to complete his entire program online.
“I had the good fortune to have opportunities at some of the most sought-after MBA programs in the country, but most of them required that I quit my job, pick up and move my family somewhere else,” Jacobson said.
At the time he started the program in the fall of 1998, Whitewater’s was the only accredited online MBA program, according to Jacobson. Since the university had a good reputation, he decided to enroll. As part of his acceptance into the program, however, Jacobson had to sit for the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) within a week of contacting Whitewater officials. And, as if foreshadowing the future, the test was administered online.
Jacobson, who is an internist specializing in endocrinology, held the position of chief operating officer at a health insurance company when he decided he needed to expand his business knowledge. His experience was better than he expected.
“I think there were some lessons in it for all of us,” Jacobson says of the program. “One was, even though one has the convenience of being able to do the work at any time one wants, still the work is required. I think were a few students that thought because it was on the Internet, they never had to read a book. There was a lot of reading, a lot of discussion, and it took as much time, if not more time, than actually attending class on site.”
The practical aspects of going through an MBA program, like group projects, took a different form in an online situation. Jacobson’s groups worked this way: the first student would form an outline, add their research and send it to the next student; student No. 2 would edit the first student’s material and add some of their own material, and so on; the last student would edit everything and then e-mail it back to student No. 1, who was ultimately in charge of submitting the project on time. The only trick was to make sure the order of students changed to spread the work out equally.
Another unique aspect of the online program that Jacobson valued was its emphasis on diversity training. In a traditional classroom, students, because they can see whom they are speaking to, can alter their comments accordingly. Being online made the students blind to each other.
“The business schools around the country say that participation and learning in a diverse environment is important to help leaders understand diversity,” Jacobson said. “On the other hand, I don’t think the business schools have been at all successful because if they had been, we wouldn’t have major diversity problems at some of our biggest and most famous organizations.
“(The online program) made me even more sensitive to diversity issues than I had been in the past simply because I never knew who I was talking to,” Jacobson said.
Toward the end of his program, Jacobson began developing his own Internet-based company, Net Education Design, Inc., which combines both his medical and business training. He quit his job in the insurance industry to launch the company, where the mission is to design, develop and publish high quality health care educational products to improve the lives of people and the effectiveness of health care organizations that serve them.
The company’s first product is a diabetes diet simulation game that helps diabetics memorize their diets, understand the concepts of diabetic exchanges and analyze the content of foods.
“Medicine is a fascinating study because every effort to acquire knowledge and skill is rewarded when it is used to help people,” Jacobson said. “Similarly, effort expended to complete the MBA courses is rewarded every time I use it in the business environment.”
August 31, 2001 Small Business Times, Milwaukee