Crazy busy? Why an online MBA might be perfect for you

For Vivian Viteri of West Palm Beach, returning to school to get her MBA meant meeting an ambition while also pursuing a passion. But the logistical challenges were daunting.

"I have a crazy busy life; I work full time and much more than 40 hours per week, said Viteri, director of human resources at the Total MD, a medical center in West Palm Beach.

Enter the revolutionary world of learning via the Internet and the Online MBA program at Florida Atlantic University. Though it started in August 2014, FAU's online MBA has already made a big difference in the lives of students such as Viteri.

"I truly couldn't have done this any other way, said Viteri of her MBA degree pursuit. "My husband has a crazy work schedule, too: He's a detective as well as on the SWAT team and also in school, getting his bachelor's degree. Plus we have two young and very active kids. The ability to go online at my convenience—usually at midnight when everyone is sleeping—is priceless.

The online MBA program allows Viteri to keep her job and enjoy the irreplaceable moments of everyday life. "I'm able to continue working, cook dinner for my hubby, put my babies to sleep and get my degree, she said enthusiastically. "It seems impossible—but without this program I wouldn't have been able to do it.

FAU's faculty and administrators saw this as a crucial goal from the start: to create an MBA offering for students who would otherwise have to pass up on the dream. But that doesn't mean the program has been stripped down in any way. In fact, it's an academic equal to what's taught and tested in the classroom.

where they will not have to sacrifice between income and education. We don't want them to sacrifice and they don't want to sacrifice, said Ken Johnson, Ph.D., professor and associate dean of graduate programs at Florida Atlantic University's College of Business. "But FAU has made a strong commitment to not reduce the rigor or the content. We want our students to balance their education and income, but they may have to lose sleep.

That doesn't mean they lose the ability to connect with their fellow students and the FAU faculty. "Our online program encourages discussions by utilizing threaded discussion boards, weekly posts and group case/research papers, said Ryan H. Thomson, coordinator in the Office of Executive Programs at FAU's College of Business.

That not only adds value to the learning experience but also takes pressure off MBA candidates who might otherwise see attending a lecture as the only way to have meaningful interaction. "Most of our online students face the hurdle of not being able to arrive for an in-person class on time, he said. "Either due to their geographic location, working hours or personal obligations, evening and weekend classes are not a viable option.

The program is "structured, organized and easy to navigate, Viteri said. "The professors assign a generous amount of work but they don't overwork you unnecessarily. It also offers a lot of interaction with other professionals in the setting of public forums. And what I like best is the ability to log in at my convenience.

Yet even with all the flexibility and freedom FAU's online option offers, "time management is key, Thomson said. "Some students prefer to set a few minutes a day for studies and others prefer to save a bulk of the work for the weekends. Either way, if you can prepare a consistent schedule of study time, you will be prepared for the road ahead.

What's more, you'll be supported along the way. "If additional help is needed, the professor or teacher's assistant will meet with you, as many times as needed, to give you the one-on-one help you may need if online isn't cutting it that week, Viteri said. "They say online classes are not for everyone, but the way this program is designed, it might just be.

She bases that on her real-life experience of navigating the online waters. Though just halfway to her MBA, she asserted: "I have grown tremendously in just these past 10 months and I am so grateful for the knowledge I have gained thus far.

And taking a cue from the encouragement FAU's team has offered her, Viteri is eager to pay it forward.

"I would tell anyone interested, don't doubt yourself, she said. "No schedule is too crazy to balance while doing this. The professors truly work with the students, understanding we're all professionals by day and many of us are parents by night. I would stress the phrase: You can do it.