There’s lots of talk among current students at elite colleges and universities right now that they’re getting shortchanged. They didn’t sign up for an online degree, yet their Spring courses are entirely being taught online now. Some students grumble that it’s essentially Khan Academy but at exorbitant higher-ed prices. They’re bitching and moaning that the universities are not giving discounts on tuition, either. EssaySnark totally understands that perspective, but at the same time… It strikes us as fairly shortsighted. Yes, the value of an education comes at least in part through the connections made and that all-important MBA network (which from our snarkier days you can see we have thoughts on), and the actual EXPERIENCE of learning. However that does not have to happen literally in the same physical location.
It is absolutely true, too: An online experience is not the same as going to school and seeing your fellow students around campus and in happy hour and all those hand-shaking networking pizza-eating events.
So. Given the uncertain in this climate, if you’ve been accepted to bschool to start in the Fall, and you’re not sure if there’s going to be an on-campus curriculum or not, should you just bail? Should you ditch out and either ask for a deferral till next year, or cancel entirely?
Well, let’s think about that.
For starters: Isn’t it true that ALL of the world has moved to an online format?
If you’re really trying to future-proof your career by going for an MBA, then doesn’t that mean building skills for the workplace of tomorrow?
If distributed, remote, disconnected work is going to be the new norm, at least for some industries, at least for some possibly extended duration, then shouldn’t you become proficient in the hard and soft skills of managing work in that context today?
That means several things:
1. Motivating yourself to work remotely. Can you actually get over that procrastination monster that’s been stopping you from so long, and do the work on your own when nobody’s looking? Learning this skill personally will serve you SO WELL into the future.
2. Overcoming the challenges of not having a team in one place. Figuring out how to be successful with others in a distributed setting. This is HUGE. An online program will force you to learn this, and it would be in a supportive environment with others who are motivated to find new ways of working. You could then take these out into the marketplace of employment and be an in-demand worker.
3. Figuring out the tech, and being on the leading edge of making work happen — in spite of technical issues. Many of you are highly technical already, so perhaps this is no big deal. But if not, then forcing yourself out of your comfort zone, to become your own IT help desk and more self-sufficient in navigating technology, well that could be a very big opportunity for your own growth in skills.
And oh hey! What about the possibility of innovating? Maybe you’ll come up with some brand-new paradigm of how to connect virtually with people. Maybe your interest in tech plus drive to be an entrepreneur will pay off fabulously if you put heads together with other bright minds on how to make work better for distributed teams.
Plus, what apparently has been overlooked: The online classroom experience through Zoom actually isn’t that bad!
If you’ve been talking to students at business schools and overall at large universities who have come back from Spring Break and had to adjust to this new world, you’ll find that they actually are saying positive things. For example, with Zoom, everyone is front-and-center; nobody can hide. You have to actually show up and participate. No more back-of-the-classroom slouching down. It’s a more direct experience, and you have to be on your game, and many people are also reporting that they feel a new kind of connection to classmates, since everyone is FACING EACH OTHER. Not like the traditional classroom where all you see are the backs of other students’ heads. You actually see these people you’re learning with. It’s a whole different thing.
Also, the more responsive schools and nimble professors have been pre-recording content and making it available to students early. This is the standard model for what’s been called the “flipped classroom” and it’s been done this way in other places for some time (ISB in India deployed this years ago, as one example of leadership in educational models).
It’s not going to be an easy decision to make — and maybe it’ll turn out not to be necessary. Maybe, just maybe, the schools will find a way to re-open for business in Fall 2020 and there will be on-campus instruction again soon.
We don’t think that will happen, but it could.
So, if you’ve been accepted to bschool and are trying to figure out if you should proceed with those plans, you need to examine your own values, and learning style, and look at the opportunity through clear eyes. Are you able to learn in an online format?
If the answer is no, we wonder why not?
What else do you feel you’d be sacrificing if you started the MBA knowing it might not be on campus initially?
If you’re going to begin a two-year program in Fall 2020, and that program has to be conducted solely online at first, it is still HIGHLY likely that on-campus instructions will be restored at some point before your two years is up. It’s hard to see a future where you’d have to do the entire two years remote.
And heck, a lot of you might save serious amounts of money if you didn’t have to move to campus right away. It’s likely that the rent you’re paying where you live now is cheaper than the rent you’d have to pay in New York, or Boston, or the San Francisco Bay Area. Depending of course on which school you are headed to.
Probably the biggest consideration is, assuming online learning will at least be an option, if not a mandatory requirement for part of your MBA experience: Are you currently living in a timezone that makes it possible for you to participate, based on where your school is located? If you’ve been accepted to Tuck, and you live in Delhi, then a 9am class in Hanover is going to be at 6:30pm for you. Are you able (and willing) to stagger your life to meet the scheduling requirements of the class based on the school’s local clock? Many full-time MBA programs have classes from 9:00am to 2:00pm on Mondays through Thursdays, with no classes on Fridays, and usually none in the evenings or on weekends. Executive MBA programming and part-time programs have evenings and weekends, so any school that has those tracks might be able to juggle full-time students around for the first semester. It’s hard to say. The administrators are likely right now scrambling just to get the remainder of this year’s coursework supported online, with the bulk of that craziness happening right around now, as the extended spring breaks are coming to a close and all the faculty are trying to figure out how to deliver their courses in a new format and under this new paradigm. The schools aren’t yet thinking about what options and accommodations they might be able to make for an entering class in the Fall. It’s all new, everything, and that’s likely still going to be the case for a lot of programs for Fall also.
Many, many questions, and very few answers. There are even more reasons why we think that proceeding with your MBA plans, if you’ve got an admit in hand, would be a smart decision for lots of BSers. But there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to these difficult questions, and all the uncertainty is admittedly majorly stressful for almost everyone.
If you’re a BSer we’ve worked with this season and you’ve got questions on what you should do, feel free to drop notes to your Essay Snark consultant in My SnarkCenter and we’ll see what we can offer up based on what we know and how we’re seeing things play out. It’s gonna be a truly individual call that each of you has to make. But if you got in to a program you love, then for most people, we don’t really see how coronavirus should stop you from proceeding with your plans to matriculate this Fall. Even if it means from a computer screen in your bedroom instead of in a cavernous lecture hall in an ivy-covered brick building somewhere else.