We tossed out some names of some schools the other day that, even pre-covid, had started to embrace online education for business.
What questions should you be asking if you’re considering an online MBA or any degree program delivered natively online?
The first is, what is the format? How is designed?
Yes it’s online, but how exactly is the teaching implemented and delivered? What will be your experience as a student during the program?
Some online programs are what’s called asynchronous, which is the epitome of convenience: You log on and go through the coursework whenever you have time, submitting your assignments by uploading them into the learning management system. There are often other assignments and you may have a standard academic textbook that you have to purchase as well (textbooks, for whatever reason, have been really really slow to migrate to an ebook format for online learning, though that seems to be finally changing these days).
In this async model, the majority of your interactions with your professor and other students are through a discussion board or forum software. You never actually meet them except through text or, sometimes, pre-recorded video by the instructor. This is the model that most people think of with “online education” and it’s very limited. It’s essentially the Khan Academy format that many current students have been so unhappy about.
Other program formats include that type of asynchronous material, combined with a synchronous session which is a real-time class period with your professor holding a lecture and all students in the class together at the same time. These require you to use your webcam through a platform like Zoom (or for some more antiquated systems, WebEx), where everyone is on screen at once. You’re able to have a real classroom experience in this way.
Who is creating the content?
Is the professor doing their own webcam recordings? Or was the curriculum professionally produced? The quality of your education may not be dependent on the production quality of the videos, but it sure does make for a different experience if it seems like your professor recorded the lecture on her phone, versus having it built out in an actual studio with some editing and the PowerPoint slides timed to the delivery of the material.
Also, a Pro Tip: If the program requires an actual application, where they review your transcripts and everything and (usually) ask for an interview, you’re much more likely to get more out of the actual experience. Why? Because there will be less attrition (student drop-off where people quit the program) and the overall cohort is going to be of higher quality. If you go for a program that only requires a registration where they have you sign up and they take your money, it’s still potentially valuable, but your fellow students might not be as personally invested and they might not stick around. These are very broad-strokes generalizations (there’s plenty of students who drop out of by-admission programs too, and there’s lots of amazing people taking open-registration courses).
But it’s something to keep in mind, depending on what you’re looking for through this educational opportunity.
There’s a lot of talk in higher ed right now that this entire coronavirus thing is going to disrupt education for good. Some are saying that it’s going to force schools to discount tuition, and that a whole tier of university system will move to an online model.
But college kids go to college at least in part for the social experiences. For everything that’s involved in that stage of life. For the fraternities and sororities and late night parties. Maybe to meet someone. In many cases, they really really really want to do college away from home.
For folks who are looking at graduate education, the priorities change. All those social reasons still apply for many bschool students, but there’s often also a lot of other pulls. Many are already married or in significant relationships, and some even have kids. The priorities for school are not the party scene.
Obviously yes, the network the network the network. But honestly, we see gobs of candidates touting “the network” in their apps for bschool and the more we learn about them, the more we learn that they’re introverts who cannot stand networking! (doh!) It’s definitely true that an online education is completely different than the experience IRL. We’re not trying to suggest that they are interchangeable. But, we are suggesting that perhaps priorities have changed for you as an individual? This experience is shaping all of us in ways large and small.
This pandemic is certainly also going to change higher ed. EssaySnark is not convinced it’s going to create a massive wave in remote-only learning. However, one very probable outcome is that it’s going to remove the stigma from ‘online program’ and lots of schools are going to innovate, and get better at, the delivery of an online education. If you’re looking around right now and the convenience of an online degree is appealing, then there are some schools that had started down that path earlier, that might be good to look at first. We also expect to see more and more changes in the overall landscape, on an accelerated or even frantic pace through the rest of 2020, and then on a continuous basis going forward. You might be one who will benefit!!
And… Many of you are looking towards