In 2020, 1,379 students earned B.B.A. degrees from the Robinson College of Business—but there’s always room for growth. Over the years, Robinson has lost applicants to other schools offering distance learning programs. In order to compete in that space, Robinson has launched an Online B.B.A Degree Completion Program. The long-term goal is to attract students who otherwise would enroll in online programs at not only local competitors but also institutions across the country. According to program director Dr. Ritu Lohtia, recruitment efforts intentionally started small with a soft launch geared toward Perimeter College students looking to build on their associate’s degrees. (Ten students enrolled in the online B.B.A. program in fall 2020, and nine enrolled this spring.)
“A lot of Perimeter students want to continue their education online,” Lohtia said. “It seemed like a natural group to target.”
Two out of the college’s 11 undergraduate majors now are offered online: finance and marketing. Developed by Robinson faculty with the help of Georgia State’s Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning & Online Education, the virtual classes are asynchronous and just as rigorous as their face-to-face counterparts. By the end of fall 2021, all the coursework required of undergraduate finance and marketing majors will be available in an online format.
Though the courses do not convene in person, the faculty have worked tirelessly to facilitate engagement with their students, and to foster a sense of community amongst classmates. Examples include frequent reminders of upcoming deadlines and tests, virtual office hours, a discussion board, intelligent software that nudges students who have not engaged with content, and regular tracking of student performance paired with reaching out if an issue is detected.
Beyond high-quality coursework, students have access to the complete Robinson package including Signature Programs like WomenLead, Panthers Accelerated Career Experience, and Panthers on Wall Street. The Career Advancement Center’s full suite of support services like one-on-one coaching, resume reviews, and career fairs are being offered virtually to online B.B.A. students as well. Lohtia said the key is informing students of these resources, and making sure they leverage them.
“Students are so busy balancing full-time jobs and school that they might not be able to participate in these opportunities,” Lohtia said. “We want to suggest they consider a different approach: maybe taking one less class in order to take advantage of everything Robinson has to offer. That could serve them better in the long-run.”
Another key challenge has been grabbing the attention of both current and prospective online students. “Students don’t respond to emails,” Lohtia said. “You can send students as many emails as you want, but they won’t look at them.” She has been able to reach enrolled students via Pounce, a virtual assistant for Georgia State admissions.
One strategy in particular has been successful from a recruitment standpoint: Perimeter leadership and faculty members spreading the word on campus and encouraging students to complete a bachelor’s degree at Robinson. Presenting information to members of Perimeter student organizations also has been extremely effective.
Lohtia hopes to add more majors that are popular among students, like accounting, computer information systems, and management. With the support of Georgia State and Robinson leadership, as well as the department chairs and faculty, she is building interest in developing and teaching additional asynchronous online courses.
“We’re going after a different kind of nontraditional student who needs a lot of flexibility,” Lohtia said. “So we have to offer a set of courses that these students can complete asynchronously online at their own time and pace. We’ll collectively find ways to make it happen!”
The online B.B.A. program will fully launch this fall. With feedback from faculty and current online students as well as other learnings from the current academic year, Lohtia is making continuous improvements. She also looks forward to working closely with Georgia State’s online initiative to expand Robinson’s Online B.B.A. Degree Completion Program.