Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The online MBA

The online MBA. Yawn. Can’t be done. No value. Wait a minute. How would you like it if you could say you are a MBA from the Jack Welch Management Institute ? Sitting up ? What if it was 20% of the cost of a regular MBA. And what if you don’t have to leave your job for 2 years to do this. Interested ? Read on.

Jack Welch is taking a 12% stake in a company called Chancellor University System LLC, whose leading investor is Michael Clifford an evangelist for online education. His lending of his name to the MBA program will immediately catapult it to star status. But will it work ?

There is no doubt that technology has the capability to transform education. Firstly the pros. It is cheaper and you don’t have to give up your job. You can do it from anywhere in the world. The monster that is the US visa officer can be kissed goodbye. Many more people can do it. The limitation of the classroom size largely goes away.

But there are serious doubts, of course. Can the academic rigour be maintained ? What about case discussions, which are so important in a MBA program ? Personal interaction, networks, etc are a key part of learning. Can this be replicated online ? How about the experience of living and studying together ?

While these are very valid concerns, the issues are not insurmountable. Don’t we build strong networks and friendships online through social networks ? I haven’t physically met most of the people who comment on my blog and yet I am intimately connected with them. An online classroom, which closely mimics the actual classroom is now a reality. Take the example of investor presentations, which are almost exclusively on line these days – they are extremely and intensely interactive. And the youth of today are much more adept at interacting and sharing online.

Methinks online education will be a significant part of the learning systems of the world. It won't replace the traditional university for sure, but it will be a very real choice for people.

There’s something in this. Jack Welch says he first thought this was a daft idea, but is now a convert, thanks to Michael Clifford’s evangelism. And we all know, Jack Welch doesn’t make moves lightly.

What say you ? Wanna enroll for the Jack Welch MBA ?


le embrouille blogueur said...

Ramesh ... funny you bring this up because just recently while leafing through the SKY maagazine (while I was in the sky) I realized there are close to ten pages dedicated to online programs from different institutions ....and I asked myself the same questions like you did above ...well not exactly,kinda the lay man version..for someone like me who always wanted to get an MBA and ended up not following that dream....could this be the solution ....Jack Welch as you said doesnot make moves lightly ....thanks for a very insightful post !!

Hang said...

The online Jack Welch MBA doesn't look appealing to me. I am not a believer in online education. I've not seen or heard any online education program that proves to be successful. I think many things cannot be replicated online. But I cannot explain why. Maybe face-to-face interaction can never be replaced by advancement of technology. It just feels so different.

Ramesh said...

@blogueuer - There's indeed a plethora of online options. The problem is that most are crap. After the shakeout, I do believe the truly outstanding will succeed. Maybe the le embrouille blogueur MBA will be the star !

@Hang - Understand your view. Online education will not be for everybody. Some will like it and some won't. That's why it cannot replace traditional education, just as Kindle won't replace books; at least for a long time !

SevenRams said...

IIMs and XLRIs in India deliver realtime classes for working professionals to help them earn professional certifications on various subjects and also to help them earn MBAs. These are courses run via broadband centres of Reliance World, facilitated by Hughes Education with state of the art IT infrastructure in a virtual classroom environment where each student can even interact and engage in discussions with the lecturer who is imparting the course from the real classroom. It is almost as good as the real one.

It will however not be able to replicate the magic of classroom interactions where one learns a lot more than the subject itself. This is helpful for professionals and middle managers who cannot leave jobs to attend such courses but are still interested in earning such degrees from good institutions.

Hats off to IIMs and XLRIs to pioneer this successfully in India. Many have earned such MBAs online. The tests are onsite and there is a residential phase in the course where students need to spend time on campus for 2 weeks per semester thus taking care of the networking angle . The precondition is 5 years work experience in a supervisory role endorsed by the current working organization.
Well, the point I am trying to make here is that online courses such as this are great and highly welcomed. It is here to stay. It will not replace traditional universities in the near future, but will give it stiff competition soon.

Ramesh said...

@ seven rams -Thanks for your detailed comment. Yes, there are institutes in India too that have moved in this direction and I agree with you that they are here to stay, but will coexist with traditional universities.

thethoughtfultrain said...

I did my Masters in Psychology through distance education. While I enjoyed my Bachelor study in the same field immensely the distance version was a boring dud! The class experiments, the discssions, the Q and A sessions and even taking tests and examinations with classmates are some things which liven up a studying experience.

But you are talking of an online experience which I think would include all the above interactions over the Internet. Which I am sure would work. But the exclusivity over MBA from a reputed B School was getting the best of the brain - through various Herculean tests and all. What happens to that? Now that anyone can join will the demand decrease?

PS : I think I outdid myself again! ;-)

le embrouille blogueur said...

Ramesh ... you have an award ... from me .. oh the perks of blogging !!

Adesh Sidhu said...

I personally feel any MBA other than regular MBA is 'bhagte chor kee langoti hee sahi.' After doing MBA, people expect high salaries and no corporate will give decent salary to distant MBA degree holder.

le embrouille blogueur said...

Adesh ... even with the Jack Welch tag on ?? ...that is not good news for aspiring MBA candidates like myself ....

Adesh Sidhu said...

LEB - I am talking from Indian prospective only. Maybe in US corporates value distant degrees but not here. Distant degrees are given step child treatment. This is not to dishearten you at all. There are lot executive MBAs which are of one year duration. Whenever you have time, you can pursue it.

Reflections said...

Sounds good to me....atleast online education sounds better than 'correspondence';-/.

umm....came here earlier also but forgot to tell u tht u were tagged;-D.

rads said...

WOW that's a great idea..why didn't they start it when I was contemplating on pursuing MBA 5 yrs back...and for interaction I guess they can have something like a video conference and like you said we don't have to join a college n sit in a classroom to interact with the crowd...

Ramesh said...

@ thoughtful train - As always, your comments are thoughtful and a train has to be long, shouldn't it. Wihs your comment train were even longer :) I don't envisage the good on line programes to be a free for all. Even the Jack Welch MBA will have a selection based on GMAT scores and the like and class size, though bigger, will be limited.

@Adesh - In a few words of colourful language, you can summarise a whole thought. Wonderful. Right now, the Indian online options aren't great, but an outstandig one will emerge in due course.

@Reflections. Thanks for the tag. I am honoured and saw it on your blog, but The Great Firewall is creating some problems in leaving a comment on your site - I think you forgot to say Hail Chairman Mao three times a day :) I'll pick up the tab over the weekend.

@rads - Wanna try it now ??

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