Pushing Free Online Learning in a New Direction

Posted by: Alison Damast on February 27, 2012

Business professors from several top universities in the U.S. are among a dozen instructors participating in one of the online education market's latest experiments, a new website called the Faculty Project. Like many free online course offerings, the program, launched in late January, allows professors to upload free courses and supplementary course material. What makes it unique is that it also allows professors to interact with students, and students with each other, via online discussion boards. It is an offshoot of Udemy, a for-profit company launched in 2010 that lets people design and sell courses through its online platform.

With the Faculty Project, Udemy's founders want to create a venue where professors from leading universities that might not have established free online course offerings of their own can broadcast their lectures and reach a wider audience of students, said Tim Parks, director of the Faculty Project. There are currently 12 classes in varied disciplines being offered on the website, taught by professors from schools like Duke University, Dartmouth College and the University of Southern California, all of which are free and not offered for credit. Professors are not paid for designing the classes, Parks said.

"We realized there was some amazing OpenCourseWare materials out there led by institutions such as MIT, Stanford and others. But what there hasn't really been is a place where professors from top universities can come together and use a single platform to design a series of free courses," Parks said.

Some education professionals question whether the website will be able to attract as many professors as it hopes; Udemy says its goal is to have 100 professors signed on to the Faculty Project by year's end. To date, most online learning platforms modeled on the OpenCourseWare movement (launched by MIT in 2002) have been associated with a university, said Roger Schonfeld, manager of research at Ithaka S+R, a higher education strategy and research organization.

"I find myself wondering what is the model for incentivizing faculty members to participate in something that isn't associated with their university," Schonfeld said. "It will be interesting to track over the course of time because I imagine there will be a variety of different motives, from professors wanting to reach a wider audience to trying to expand one's influence."

Continue reading "Pushing Free Online Learning in a New Direction"

B-Schools: Go Global or Die?

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on February 27, 2012

0224_matt_symondsNEW.jpgNo one in their right mind would claim that there is such a thing as a best place in the world to conduct business. After all, how could you compare the City of London to an Indian technology hub like Bangalore? Or Silicon Valley to one of the rapidly developing industrial cities of China? So why do so many of the major business school rankings seem to take the view that there is such a thing as a best place to learn how to conduct business?

Traditionally, and at least for the present, that place would seem to be in the heart of Western capitalism, in North America or Western Europe, at least if the "usual suspect" schools that frequent the upper echelons of rankings are anything to go by. But this may not be the case for much longer. As economic power slides apparently inexorably to the south and east, business education may very well follow it. So does this mean that the 'right place' of the future will be a Beijing or Brasilia rather than a Paris or Philadelphia?

A recent conversation with Peter Rafferty, international development director at Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School, put some sense back into this particular argument. Rafferty is adamant that the whole point of a modern MBA is not to train managers and professionals to work in a particular market, no matter how promising that market may be on the day you sign up for a program. Instead it is to equip graduates with the skills, knowledge, cultural sensitivity and network to operate in what is rapidly becoming a genuinely global marketplace..

How that is actually achieved will remain open to debate. Rafferty's own school seeks to do it by partnering with Peking University and by operating a dedicated campus in St Petersburg. Many others are still following the diversity route, cramming as many nationalities as possible into the classroom in the hope that an international attitude may emerge from the cocktail of views and experience. And even the mighty Harvard Business School seems to be retreating from its former position that all that needed to be learned could be learned on the Cambridge, Mass. campus and is now dispatching MBA students to do project work around the globe, in what the school describes as a field-based global immersion.

Rafferty may have a point. Following the vagaries of fashion could be damagingly short-sighted. What the next generation of MBAs will need is a much wider range of tools than any of their illustrious predecessors used--tools that will encompass both the best of Western management techniques and the insights of their peers to the east and south--and the energy and open-mindedness of the business community in developing economies. The challenge for business schools is to train their charges to be successful everywhere and anywhere. A big ask, but not one that will be going away anytime soon.

Matt Symonds is chief editor of MBA50.com, a website dedicated to the world's outstanding business schools. He is also founder and former director of the QS World MBA Tour and is co-author of ABC of Getting the MBA Admissions Edge.

Scared Straight? For MBAs, Maybe, Maybe Not

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on February 24, 2012

A few days ago, Garrett Bauer, who pleaded guilty in December to one of the longest-running and profitable insider trading schemes of all time, appeared on a video screen in a conference room at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. His goal: to become an object lesson in the consequences of white-collar crime. But if he left the students terrified about the high price he paid for his misdeeds, it's hard to tell.

Bauer's qualifications for the job are undisputable. For 17 years, he was part of a conspiracy to steal confidential information from major law firms and use it to make trades that netted the participants $37 million. Free on bail for the time being, he faces four felony counts when he returns to court for sentencing next month. According to the New York Times, he could be sent away for as much as 25 years.

Bauer has been making the rounds at business schools and law schools in the last few weeks, appearing at Tepper, London Business School, and the West Point of capitalism, Harvard Business School, among many others. He tells his tale and fields questions from curious students. At Tepper, he told students about his time in the lockup, including his use of a "spork" at mealtime and being issued a nonworking phone card. Some students were surprised at the severity of his anticipated sentence, which he says will likely be nine to 11 years. As one student told the Tartan, Carnegie Mellon's student newspaper: "His future is basically ruined."

But will tales of sporks and nonworking phone cards be enough to put Tepper's students off a life of crime? Jennifer Cai, a business student who helped coordinate the event, thinks so. She told me that the length of Bauer's sentence, the details of his time in jail, and the uncertainty of his future all left students with an appreciation for how serious a crime insider trading is. "Students really were scared," she says.

Continue reading "Scared Straight? For MBAs, Maybe, Maybe Not"

ForumWatch: Alternatives to the Full-Time MBA

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on February 23, 2012

Ever since the financial crisis hit in 2008, the gainfully employed have been in a pickle: do nothing to improve your skills and your job may not be yours for long, quit a job to go back to school and you may never get it back. As a result, some would-be full-time MBA candidates are considering alternatives that have them keeping their jobs (and their paychecks) while beefing up their resumes with additional coursework. Think part-time MBA, executive MBA, and non-degree executive education and certificate programs.

Career changers, in particular, are unsure of what to do. The full-time MBA, with a summer internship that serves as a test-drive for a new career, was the program of choice for many. But now the tides are beginning to shift. Even career changers are considering alternatives. Some of them come to the Bloomberg Businessweek Business School Forums to discuss the issue and get advice. They want to know if they truly have options when it comes to which programs will help them achieve their goals.

Recently, Apollo13 kicked off a conversation about the possibility of getting recruited by an investment bank when participating in an EMBA program, which traditionally serve senior executives with no intention of leaving their companies. Others offered explicit answers that described the pros and cons of an EMBA. If you'd like to join the conversation, visit the "Career Impacts post-EMBA" discussion thread.

-Francesca Di Meglio

Editor's Note: This blog post is part of a series about discussions taking place on the Bloomberg Businessweek Business School Forums where prospective MBA program applicants, current students, and recent alumni trade admissions tips, job-hunting advice, and the occasional barbed comment. We invite you to join these discussions or start one of your own.

Europe: Younger B-School Applicants Staying Put

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on February 23, 2012

A new report from the Graduate Management Admission Council, the folks who bring you the GMAT test, is full of the kind of positive news GMAC is known for. Indeed, the number of GMAT exams taken in Europe (which closely tracks the number of business school applications) was 24,298 in 2011, an increase of 40 percent over 2007. But if you run an MBA program, particularly one in the U.S., this report should keep you awake at night.

It's becoming clear that in the last four years--as the world experienced a global financial meltdown--Europe, a big contributor to U.S. MBA programs, is becoming less so. While the percentage of GMAT scores being sent to MBA programs from U.S. test-takers has been on a slow, steady decline since 2008, in Europe the situation is markedly worse. In 2007, the MBA was king: 71 percent of GMAT test-takers in Europe were applying to MBA programs. Today only half are. At a time when the number of Europeans taking the GMAT surged, from 17,353 in 2007 to 24,298 in 2011, the number of applicants sending scores to MBA programs actually fell a bit, from 12,320 in 2007 to 12,149. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the MBA.

An equally troubling trend has to do with the number of applicants who are crossing the pond. In 2011, a third of all European test-takers were applying to U.S. business schools, which sounds great--until you consider that just four years ago nearly half (47 percent) planned to leave the Continent to get their degrees.

Part of the reason for both trends is that applicants are coming to business school at a younger age. Today more than half of all European applicants are under the age of 25, up from 38 percent in 2007. Younger applicants typically have a tough time qualifying for U.S. MBA programs, which put a premium on work experience. GMAC found that they are more likely to apply to programs in Europe, where they have access to non-MBA "pre-experience" master's programs designed specifically for applicants straight out of college.

Continue reading "Europe: Younger B-School Applicants Staying Put"

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