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Muma College of Business Offering Full Online DBA Degree

By Keith Morelli

Man in classroom

TAMPA (October 12, 2021) -- The popular Muma College of Business’ Doctor of Business Administration program, which provides seasoned business executives with a chance to further their careers through rigorous research and networking opportunities, is set to offer its instruction completely online.

Like the original program, which began in 2014 and continues in its current form, graduates earn a doctorate recognized by AACSB International, the accrediting agency that sets the standards of excellence for business colleges and programs worldwide.

“There has always been an important constituency that the Muma College of Business DBA has been unable to serve: highly accomplished individuals who could not come to USF for two days a month,” said Grandon Gill, the program’s academic director. “This has always frustrated us, running an internationally recognized program that is often impractical for individuals residing outside the Tampa Bay area.

“Our online option will allow us to meet the needs of these seasoned executives without sacrificing quality,” he said. “At the moment, we are not aware of any other AACSB-accredited institution offering a pure online program.”

The proposed program incorporates a flexible schedule to accommodate work schedules. It is a cohort-based model in which students benefit from experienced professional classmates who have been in the workforce for at least a dozen years with a minimum five years of executive, senior managerial or senior technical experience.

And like the original USF DBA, which graduates its fifth cohort this year, instructors and advisers are drawn from the university’s most accomplished researchers and alumni.

"Taking a top-five DBA degree global, the USF Muma College of Business is thrilled to offer the best practitioner-scholar centered DBA degree program to a global audience starting May 2022," said Matt Mullarkey, director of the program. "Using its tried and true cohort-based approach with internationally acclaimed, AACSB-certified faculty, the we are proud to host its first fully online DBA degree cohort in just eight months starting in May 2022."

Applications for the online DBA program are now open. The start date of the cohort depends on how quickly the program fills. A maximum of 15 students will make up the inaugural cohort.

The online DBA has the same requirements and curriculum as its original face-to-face program. Participants will interact with instructors synchronously during class time and will work independently online between class sessions.

“In designing the program, we applied the lessons we learned during COVID-19, when our faculty had to move their regular classes online,” Gill said. “Rather than running two days in a row each month, the online sessions are one day but occur more frequently. To ensure participants remain engaged and interact effectively, we are limiting cohort sizes to under half that or our original cohorts.

“To limit spikes in workload, we are running the program year-round rather than on the two-semester schedule of our original program. In addition to making the program more effective from an online learning standpoint, these changes also make the program more flexible for participants whose work schedule does not allow them to get away on Fridays, as our original program requires.”

Jackie Skryd, a member of the graduating class of 2022 DBA cohort, sees great things for the online program. The chief of staff at St. Petersburg College and her classmates went fully online during the COVID-19 lockdown and instructors adapted well to the major change in course delivery. Taking classes online turned out to be a big plus for her and other executives whose time is consumed by demanding careers.

“What I found attractive with the online component was the flexibility,” she said. “If you’re a working executive, to have that option, to be able to attend virtually, at times makes it more convenient. I prefer to take these courses in person, but I’ve had circumstances come up, with work and with family life, that being online made it much easier.”

The level of instruction did not miss a beat, she said.

“I think for someone who is interested in attending the fully online program, it absolutely provides the same high-level course content and instructors you would expect,” she said. “They all can teach very well in person and they all taught just as well in an online format.”

For executives looking for a business administration doctorate, she said, the online option promises to be just as impactful and relevant as the face-to-face program.

“That’s important when choosing a fully online program over the face-to-face programs,” she said. “You must have confidence in the quality of what you’re getting. I think the quality of the faculty and the way the courses are designed is unmatched either in person or online.”

Both programs take three years to complete, with the final year based around monthly meetings between candidates and dissertation committee members.

Online DBA students will “meet” virtually, through Microsoft Teams. These sessions will be held every other week during the spring, fall and summer as opposed to the monthly Friday/Saturday weekend sessions in Tampa that take place in the traditional DBA program.

Like in the original DBA setting, participants will complete the online DBA as a member of a cohort taking the same courses and progressing together over the duration of the program.  To maximize the effectiveness of the synchronous online delivery, the maximum size of a cohort will be 15 participants (less than half the maximum of the traditional DBA program).

For most of the first two years of the online program, classes will meet virtually every other Saturday during the semester for nine hours (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.), with two different classes running in parallel (4½ hours per class), with a changeover taking place in the middle of the semester.

There will be two required residencies in which participants are expected to come to USF’s Tampa campus to meet face-to-face with members of their cohort, the program staff and selected faculty members.

Those occasions include the “preliminary research weekend” (the date will be specified when a cohort start date is announced) and the “dissertation weekend” (taking place late in the candidate’s second year).

During the preliminary research weekend, participants meet, enroll into USF’s administrative systems, and be provided with a laptop computer and software for their use in the program and beyond. In the dissertation weekend, students have the opportunity to meet face to face with their respective dissertation committees.

Additional classes on the dissertation process and social gatherings will be included.

“A full seven years after it was launched, our original DBA continues to attract participants of the highest caliber,” Gill said. “Our online cohort represents the first major expansion of the program. Our faculty, alumni and existing program participants are all looking forward to welcoming the new online participants and to the expansion of the programs reach and impact made possible by the online option.”

To view a video presentation about the program, click here.