Hybrid Learning as a Path to Earning a Business Degree

Monday, March 16, 2020

An Asian woman sits at a desk working on a laptop.

Technology allows anyone to take a college course without ever having to step foot into a physical classroom, providing students with flexibility and convenience. However, there’s still value in interacting with faculty in a physical classroom setting and building relationships with fellow students. Hybrid learning is an educational approach that enables students to benefit from both traditional in-person class instruction and online course delivery.

The Brookings Institution reported on a study spanning six universities that compared two groups of students enrolled in an introductory statistics course. One group of students took a hybrid online course while the other group attended an in-person class. Each group performed at about the same level, according to the study’s findings. For students pursuing an advanced degree such as an MBA, hybrid learning combines the flexibility of online learning with a personalized one-on-one classroom experience.

What Is Hybrid Learning?

Unlike a fully online program, students enrolled in a hybrid program get to interact with instructors and fellow students, sitting in a traditional classroom setting and participating in engaging classroom discussions. 

Not all hybrid programs offer the same ratio of online course delivery to in-person classroom participation. Some hybrid learning programs focus more on online activities. These hybrid online programs allow students to complete most of the coursework using their laptops or mobile devices from any location they choose. In other hybrid programs, students have more required in-person instructional activities, such as on-campus lectures, discussions, and labs. 

Benefits of Hybrid Learning

The Atlantic reports that a growing number of college students are enrolling in hybrid learning education: from 1.6 million students in 2002 to over 6 million in 2016. The many advantages of hybrid learning are likely driving the popularity of hybrid programs in colleges around the U.S.

Hybrid learning combines convenience and personalization with opportunities for in-depth discussions and professional networking. This approach provides students pursuing advanced degrees, such as MBAs, with the best of both worlds: a conventional physical classroom and online course delivery.


For business professionals seeking career advancement, an advanced degree may offer a gateway to success. For many working professionals, however, getting to class can be a bit of a struggle. For example, rush-hour congestion in major cities can add to the difficulties in finding time to take graduate coursework, making the pursuit of an advanced education inconvenient. Working professionals may also face unpredictable schedules and meetings in the evening, which can deter them from getting to their in-person classes on time. Other challenges include the cost of gas and tolls and the driving time required to get to a campus far away from home or the office.

Hybrid learning offers a convenient option for professionals seeking an advanced degree as it removes the necessity to be physically present in the classroom for every class. Professionals can arrive home on most days to relax or spend time with their families after a long day of work. Then, reenergized, they can take a class at a time most convenient for them. For example, a professional who is also a parent can take a class at 10 p.m., after the children have gone to bed. Students who live near a university can also benefit from the same valuable degree as traditional on-campus students, but without having to travel to campus several times a week. 

Personalized Learning

Engaging every student in classroom settings can be challenging. This is in large part because everyone learns differently. For some, traditional classroom settings work best. Others may prefer taking an online course. Hybrid learning is a marriage of the two, providing faculty with the tools to improve teaching efficiency while allowing students to learn in their preferred style. 

Personalized learning is one of the key benefits of the hybrid approach. It allows professionals in pursuit of an advanced degree to learn at a pace comfortable for them. In turn, this helps to reduce stress and improve satisfaction for both slow-paced and quick learners. Personalized learning can also improve information retention by enabling students to participate in a variety of activities aligned with their particular learning style. The flexibility for completing lessons means that students can manage their time to suit their needs, which can help them gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Hybrid formats also allow students and professors to connect via email and message boards, enabling the sharing of progress reports, which can become an effective tool for increased engagement and classroom tailoring.

In-Depth Discussions

Hybrid learning combines traditional in-person learning with online delivery methods. For students, this means that they can listen to lectures in traditional classroom settings or on their laptops or mobile devices. Lectures can sometimes be lengthy, so they may not suit every learner. Through online delivery, students who need to take a break during a long lecture can step away from the screen to continue at another time. 

Through a hybrid approach, a professor can plan on delivering some lectures online, freeing up time for more direct interaction and collaboration when the class meets in person. Professors and students can benefit from in-depth discussions in physical settings, which provide additional context to important class concepts and unique insights. They also provide opportunities for building relationships that may be advantageous to students’ careers.


In business, the ability to form strong relationships is a critical component of success. Hybrid learning adds a level of relationship-building not available in online formats. Networking provides immense value when it comes to career advancement. According to the Association for Talent Development, “57 percent of jobs are filled through a networking contact.” 

Professionals attending the same hybrid class can exchange class notes, ideas, and contacts when they meet in person. Hybrid learning also offers access to a group of prospective business partners, providing opportunities to learn from the unique perspectives and career backgrounds of fellow students both in person and online. 

Hybrid Learning at USD School of Business

For business professionals eager to advance in their careers, earning an MBA can help maximize their success. Traditional MBA programs present challenges — balancing family and work demands or commuting to campus — that raise the barrier of entry for working professionals. While online courses may help address some of these challenges face-to-face interaction is essential for building strong professional networks and strengthening interpersonal and communication skills vital for success in business. An MBA program that takes advantage of online teaching methods while promoting in-person collaboration with professors and students offers professionals the ability to get the best of both worlds.  

The Hybrid MBA program at the University of San Diego School of Business offers professionals in pursuit of their MBA convenience and opportunities for personalized learning, in-depth discussions, and networking. The hybrid program is 60 percent on campus and 40 percent online. Students meet on campus just one weekend per month (Saturday and Sunday), with the remaining coursework completed online. After completing the first semester in the program students can decide to change from the hybrid to the evening format for the ultimate flexibility. Regardless of the format they decide to pursue, students get to learn from the highly esteemed faculty of the full-time MBA program, which is ranks among the top MBA programs in the U.S., according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Discover how the Hybrid MBA program at the University of San Diego School of Business can help you become a versatile global professional and impactful business leader, at a pace that fits your life.

Faculty/EA Questions

  1.     What opportunities does an MBA from USD School of Business make available to business professionals?

Hybrid learning is a new and innovative approach to learning for busy professionals. The USD MBA program takes a standard MBA course, with all the rigor, learning, and interaction with fellow students, and transforms it into 4 in-person weekend sessions a semester, supplemented by various advanced online learning tools. Discussion boards, online sessions, simulations, and other out of class learning opportunities make hybrid learning the perfect solution for getting a degree in a flexible way whether due to your business or personal schedule or because you are a remote learner.

Typically, there are four learning modules containing various Harvard and other similar materials—cases, articles, core curricula—which make up each module. One or more Harvard cases are read and done online, with follow up in class, with additional cases to read for class. In addition, the class is broken into teams to work together, again mostly remotely for maximum effectiveness and time efficiency, on various projects and simulations.

Employers constantly remind us at USD that they want MBA graduates who are flexible and can work effectively in teams, the hybrid learning classes promote exactly that while making sure the doctrine and principles being taught remain at a high level.

Professor Carlton O’Neal, clinical professor of marketing, is a 25-year veteran in technology, global entrepreneurship, marketing, sales and business development. He teaches marketing, business-to-business marketing and professional selling in the hybrid MBA program at USD.


Recommended Readings

Data in Demand: USD School of Business’ New Master’s in Business Analytics a Great Fit

USD’s MBA Ranks Among the Top 10 Green MBAs in the Nation

USD MBA Program Continues to Rise in Bloomberg Businessweek Rankings



Association for Talent Development, "Understanding the Value of Networking for Job and Career Development"

The Atlantic, “The Future of College Looks Like the Future of Retail” 

Brookings Institution, "A Silver Lining for Online Higher Education?"

DreamBox Learning, “How Personalized Learning Can Benefit Students” 

TeachThought, "The Benefits of Blended Learning"

The Tech Edvocate, “5 Major Benefits of Blended Learning” 

Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Urban Mobility Report 2019

University of San Diego, Business School ?Rankings

U.S. News & World Report, “Decide Between Online, Blended Courses”

U.S. News & World Report, “Negotiating the Many Definitions of Hybrid, Online Classes"


Renata Ramirez
(619) 260-4658