The Distance MBA: A Need for Guiding Philosophy and Theories


  • Vanthanh Phan
  • J. Duane Hoover


Online MBA programs have become ubiquitous, as they have been meeting the huge demand of pursuing MBA degrees by students who cannot or choose not to access traditional brick and mortar MBA classes. The literature about distance MBA programs has focused on practical advice on how to teach online MBA courses. The need for more of a focus on philosophy and theory is called for to fill potential theoretical gaps. A trial and error approach to distance MBA education with little consideration being given to theoretical framework would be a fragile construct. In this paper, we review theories that add productive frameworks to the philosophy and practice of distance MBA programs. We start with reviewing learning theories such as objectivism, constructivism, behavioral theory, cognitive theory, social learning theory, and vicarious experiential learning, which indicate MBA courses can be taught effectively from a distance. Next we present and critique distance education theories including theory of independent study, theory of transactional distance, theory of interaction and communication, andragogy, and equivalency theory, noting applications to distance MBA courses. We conclude with recommendations for implementing the theories examined into useful conceptual frameworks, as well as giving insights into the limitation of those theories for further application and research purposes.