September 21, 2014

Back to (Virtual) School

Over the weekend, the first official classes for the third period of my Global MBA at IE Business School kicked off. I often get asked how it is to take a distance-learning/blended/online format.

Here are my thoughts on this unique and innovative format:
1. It requires a lot of self discipline. In a face-to-face format, the professor is in front of you and can easily see you doze off or chat with your peers. In our video conferences, we're at home and cannot be seen by the professor unless we are asked to turn on our video. The same self discipline is required when studying and doing the required school work. Most of my classmates (myself included) are still employed full time so we need to squeeze in the studying at night and during the weekends.

2. It teaches you to work with colleagues across multiple time zones while adjusting to each one's schedule. In my current group, we are scattered across at least four different time zones. Three of us are in the Asia-Pacific region, another three are in Europe and we have one group mate in the United States. It means we can work virtually around the clock on projects but it makes it extremely difficult to get everyone on the same conference call together. It was the same way in my other groups. We make it work by adjusting to each other and trusting one another to get each assigned task done and done well.

3. We get professors who are not necessarily based in Madrid. Not only are the students scattered across the globe, but so are our professors! We also got professors who were working full time or working as consultants so they could teach us even if they were travelling on business. No more "free cuts" so to speak.

I know that this unique format is not for everybody. Many will argue that the experience of living in Madrid (or in another country) is reason enough for one to take a full time MBA. However, each person's circumstance is different. There are some who don't want to put their careers on pause while there are some who have families. I'm thankful that such a well regarded school, such as IE Business School, is offering blended formats. It has given others in unique/different situations, like myself, an opportunity to learn and earn a degree from a top business school.

I think that the future of education is in these blended formats. Not only does it open a whole new revenue stream for academic institutions, but we now have the technology and tools to make it happen. 

I'm not sure if there is still any stigma from employers that would prefer students from full-time programs, but if there is, believe me that there shouldn't be. The academic workload we have is just as heavy, the learning opportunities are real and just like in any full-time program, you get from your MBA what you put into it.