Friday, February 22, 2013

MBA Propheteer #4: A Tale of Two MBAs

Four years out from college, John quits his nine-to-five accounting job at the headquarters of a local grocery chain to begin his full-time MBA studies.  The grocery chain has been his only employer and source of income since graduation. 

John dreams of a brand manager position at a large consumer goods company.  He leaves the labor force for two years (and the paycheck it produces) and returns to campus.  He works to position himself for a summer internship in marketing and leans on a career services office to bring the right recruiters to campus.  He assumes a lot of debt, studies hard, and crosses his fingers.

Also four years out of college, Jill works as a software developer in Silicon Valley for a technology shop with less than 200 employees.  This is her third employer since college.  Like her peers, jobs begin and end with the short life of the technology project for which she is hired. 

Every other day, Jill works alone from home or collaborates with co-workers at local coffee shops.  On the side, Jill earns money as a freelance website consultant.  Jill is always networking – prospecting for her next job or consulting client. 

Trained as an engineer, Jill knows formal management training will make her more competitive.  Jill enrolls in a well-respected online MBA program, fits courses into her schedule, and continues her life – gaining more experience, building her network, and experimenting with new concepts she learns online.

What should business schools make of this contrast?

As technology innovations virtualize and horizontalize organizations, the population of Jills will grow and the population of Johns will shrink.  For Jill, opportunities that present themselves in her network make difficult the sacrifice of a two-year residential MBA.  An online MBA not only allows Jill to continue advancing her career and consulting, but her management learning accelerates because of the living laboratory for new business concepts offered by her job and side business. 

If Jill leaves Silicon Valley to further her career, her MBA education does not skip a beat.  The portability of the online MBA program matches the options for mobility she must sometimes exercise. 

Jill does not need her MBA program to find recruiters for her, she networks and discovers opportunities just fine.  She, though, needs a tech-savvy career coach to optimize her online presence, consolidate her personal brand, and improve the presentation of herself (both virtually and in person).

Jill’s needs, tradeoffs, and preferences challenge the traditional MBA model.  The business schools that accept this as opportunity instead of threat become leaders in graduate management education’s next wave of innovative pedagogy.  There will always be a market for the premium experience offered by residential MBA programs.  Technology motivates business schools not only to offer online programs, but to improve curricula so that the value proposition of the traditional MBA is continuously insured.  

Got a comment? Bring ‘em on…. Comment below or tweet me at @MBApropheteer or @KelleyDirect

Next up: Understanding the global free agent economy.
By Phil Powell, Faculty Chair of Kelley Direct

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

MBA Propheteer #3: New rules of engagement between students and faculty

When offices first replaced typewriters with word processors in the 1970s, productivity fell within many secretarial pools because typists spent more time perfecting and manipulating their documents.  Typewriters still defined the mindset and workflow of workers, and as long as word processors were seen simply as “better typewriters,” productivity gains from the new technology remained locked away from the workplace.

The same overhang afflicts online MBA programs.  Faculty members who model online courses to recreate the best elements of a traditional classroom miss the pedagogical potential of the new medium. 
Let’s be honest. Online education is an extension of the reality of virtual workplaces and organizations.  Most students who join an online MBA program already have experience in virtual learning, collaboration, and execution.  Faculty members who structure online courses with this in mind embrace a new generation of learning based on a virtual instead of traditional classroom paradigm.

What are some elements of these new generation courses?

The foundation of online courses is asynchronous delivery.  Interaction with students cannot heavily depend on virtual class attendance at a set time (like in a traditional classroom).  Because of the impact on morale, global corporate teams do not hold mandatory weekly meetings that require employees on another continent to wake up at 3:00 AM and turn on their computer. 

If a practice makes no sense in global corporate, it has difficult application in online MBA education.
Online students are unforgiving in their expectations for round-the-clock, rapid response to emailed questions.  These are behavioral expectations that have become customary from their own experiences in responding to their employers in today’s workplace.  Gone for faculty are office hours and restricted student access – amenities common to brick-and-mortar teaching.  Like work, students now see learning as a 24/7 endeavor and demand adaptation to this new default.  

Gone too is the traditional classroom luxury of guiding a course from lecture to lecture and delaying the details of an assignment.  The full and meticulous design of an online course must be clear on day one.  Students live by their Outlook, iCloud, or Google calendars and seek to map every minute of their online learning experience from the first class to the final exam.  They adapt to the new reality of an over-stimulated workplace and home life.  In their quest to compete for students’ time, faculty must be more calculated and organized. 

Business schools must accept new “rules of engagement” between students and faculty if their online MBA programs are to prosper.

Got a comment? Bring ‘em on…. Comment below or tweet me at @MBApropheteer or @KelleyDirect

Next up: John vs. Jill – a tale of two MBA students.

By Phil Powell, Faculty Chair of Kelley Direct