Throw out your idea of correspondence school as a lesser program for those who are short of cash.
Now, one of the country's top graduate schools of business, Duke University's Fuqua School, is offering an MBA in which a good deal of the class work is done on the Internet.
For the princely sum of $82,500, (compared to about $50,000 for the usual two-year on-campus MBA degree), you get to work yourself to exhaustion for 19 months.
During this time, you continue to do your full-time manager-level job, adding on at least another 25 hours per week of course work. Though most of the work can be done at home, there are five two-week sessions in which class members meet at Duke's North Carolina campus and at other locations around the world. The face-to-face sessions are grueling, with 10- to 12- hour days that include classes, group work, and individual study.
"I do a lot of global travel, so for me, this was the only program that fit into my schedule," said a recent graduate, Joseph M. Zannoni, director of technical services at Johnson & Johnson.
In explaining the steep cost, Sam Veraldi, Fuqua's assistant dean for executive MBA programs, points out students are not giving up two years of income while they an in the Global Executive MBA program, or Gemba, as it is called. And many companies don't want to lose an effective manager for two years.
That may be one reason why many employers, who incidentally range from large multinationals like General Electric and IBM to small entrepreneurial companies, will foot all or most of the tuition bill.
Another advantage is that you can work on this MBA from anywhere in the world.
The tuition includes access to the Internet and an IBM 760 Thinkpad loaded with software. Students are expected to take part in Internet chats and video conferences.
As a result, course work can be done on trains, planes, or in hotel rooms, or by those who work full-time on another continent.
Mr. Zannoni and others readily acknowledge that the program was greatly enhanced by some face-to-face sessions. "If it had been 100% distance learning," he said, "I probably wouldn't have learned nearly as much. It was facilitated by the fact that we did meet face to face."
The first on-site session is three weeks and that and the last sessions are held on Duke's campus. The other three sessions take place in Asia, Europe, and South America.
The use of global locations is quite deliberate since the fundamental business disciplines in this program are always taught with an eye to the international. For instance, one of the very first courses is International Financial Statement Analysis since, as Mr. Veraldi points out, financial statements are quite different outside the U.S.
The far-flung locals can take advantage of local business leaders as guest speakers. In Europe, the CEO of Deutschesbank was the guest speaker by video conference the Monday after a Friday announcement that Britain's two biggest banks had merged to create a bank larger than his own.
He discussed the effect of that on Deutschesbank and its possible responses even before most bank employees had a chance to react.
About half of Gemba's students come from outside the United States. In addition to the diverse cultures represented, there is a wide cross-section of business disciplines, such as marketing, general management, financial and technical topics, and even architecture and design.
Mr. Veraldi says that typical candidates have already mastered one business discipline and want to round out their knowledge to take on more managerial responsibility or take their own business global.
Most have had at least eight years of experience and many have much more. As Mr. Zannoni pointed out, the program "is clearly for someone with global interests.