Friday, August 19, 2005

Forbes & BW Articles

I really don't mean to turn this blog into article aggregation... there's just been a lot of press regarding online MBA's lately!

Forbes has two interesting articles - the first on part-time in general, which touches on online programs, and the second all about online programs... BusinessWeek's is also a good read.

Do Online MBAs Make the Grade? (BW)
Their popularity is soaring, but some are diploma mills, making recruiters wary of virtual degrees. Here are tips for picking a good program

Part-Time Fever (Forbes)

M.B.A. applicants are shunning full-time programs in favor of flexible programs that let them keep their jobs and stay out of debt.

Click And Learn (Forbes)
NEW YORK - Online study doesn't mean a second-rate degree when it comes to earning an M.B.A.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

On Campus or Online?

I knew when I was called for the interview that I would probably be in the article, but it still freaks me out to see my name in there. Anyway - Knowledge@WPCarey has a great article about online MBA's - give it a read!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

WSJ Online on Online MBA's

Clever title, huh? ;-) Seriously, I just came across a pretty good article from the WSJ (from September 2004!) regarding online MBA programs. Don't worry, it's one of their free features. Worth a read.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

University of Florida - Hypothetically Speaking

I had a question on my opinion (were I in a hypothetical situation) on the I-MBA at UF, given their option to waive some requirements if you already held a BA or BS in Business. The additional caveats were that perhaps other programs were a bit too expensive, time to complete could be a factor, that your based in Las Vegas, so on and so forth. I'll do this mostly as a comparison to ASU, as that's what I'm most familiar with, and that's half the topic of this blog.

I'm presuming this refers to UF's 1-year Program, which is available if you already have a business degree. If anyone has worked out other waivers with UF for specific coursework, I'd be interested to hear about it, but I'm going to make the assumption that we're talking about the 1-year Program.

First off the top, one year isn't - it's 16 months. Nit-picking, perhaps, but just something to know before you jump into it.

Secondly, I still hold my opinion from earlier is that one year (1 and 1/3 years, as the case may be) is just a bit short to be cramming all that material into, and have some of it reasonably stick. Not to say that it wouldn't, or that their graduates are any worse off than their two year program - I just personally wouldn't want to cram that much in such a short amount of time, unless it's simply to "check the box", so to speak.

Thirdly... The greenbacks. The cost of the 1-Year Program at UF is $32,000. This does not include travel to and from Gainesville, FL and lodging for the 5 different weekends you'll have to go out there.
  • Airfare: LAS (hypothetically) to GAN, Fri-Sun - $700 (cheapest possible on Expedia as of this writing)
  • Hotel: $59/night for 2 nights yields $120 (using UF's cheapest pre-negotiated local rate, see bottom of this page)
So, multiply by 5, and that's $4,090 in travel and lodging, at the low end - assuming no car rental, and all meals provided by UF. Grand total: $36,090.

ASU is now $38,000 (unless the Arizona Board of Regents raise the rate again, which is always a possibility), plus travel to Tempe (lodging is included with program cost, and the lodging includes a courtesty shuttle from airport to hotel. All meals save one were included.):
  • Airfare: LAS to PHX, Sun-Fri - $200
  • Meals: Eating one meal out - $20
Grand total: $38,220, or $38,440 (if you opt for the second-year optional visit).

Now, if you will need a new computer, you are on your own at ASU, so bear that in mind - I'm assuming you already have one.

So... hypothetically speaking... Though ASU would be 150% of the length as the UF 1-Year Program (22 months versus 16) and 106% of the cost, if I were living in Las Vegas, I would choose ASU, for the following reasons:
  • The "total cost" (not including the cost of your time!) at ASU is almost negligibly higher than UF (that's negligible to me, anyway - a little over $2K when we're talking in magnitudes of $36K vs $38K - it may not be to you)
  • There are far fewer visits to contend with.
  • ASU is a slight step up in the rankings, at least per USN&WR. UF is unranked globally by the FinancialTimes (ASU is 66). UF was "Also Considered for Ranking" by BusinessWeek (ASU was "Top 30-50").
  • Living in the southwest (remember, hypothetically, Las Vegas), you will most likely get much more mileage out of ASU's brand than you will UF's.
Again - this is all predicated on the fact that the 1-Year Program at UF is in question. If other arrangements are worked out with UF differently from or above and beyond the 1-Year Program, it could certainly prove more attractive, depending on the cost and additional time savings that yielded. If you lived much closer to Gainesville, FL, of course, that could turn this analysis on it's head.

Now, this only explores two options. If cost is really a big factor to you, and you are willing to give some on the "rankings" positions, I would probably explore other options besides UF and ASU - there are plenty of quality online programs for less. This site lists many, many more (note they are distance, not necessarily online!), and amongst others, UMass-Amherst looks like they run about $25K (ballpark), with no residency required.

As always - Your Mileage May Vary!

QBA 502 - Managerial Decision Analysis

My whole goal here is to post at least once per class, if not more. This being my first class review, I'll attempt to "templatize" the approach for future use, but we'll see how that goes...

"Managerial Decision Analysis"? That would be a highfalutin' name for statistics, my friends.

So, this is our first class, and we've just finished with our second week.
Let me break real quick, here - I didn't even mean to write "we" and "our" - see what a community we are?? ;-)
Anyway, we're through with our second week (of five in each class, plus a week for the final; see here). As fate would have it, it's statistics, which works out well for me, as I've had a healthy dose of it in my undergrad, and more recently through Six Sigma training at work. So, this should be a good way to ease into being back in school for me - not that I expect it to be easy; just familiar turf, which is nice, since it's my first time back in a classroom (albeit, virtual) in a while.

Faculty Interaction
Let's see... The professorial interaction. So far, I'd say they have lived up to their promise - both the professor and teaching assistant have been very active on the forums, answering questions, encouraging discussion, and clarifying material. I also sent an e-mail regarding a quiz question. One simple thing that I received that I didn't expect - which was very nice - was an auto-reply, advising my question had been received; that it would be answered within 24 hours, and listed an alternate contact, e-mail, and phone number in the event that for whatever reason there wasn't a reply within the specified period. Very nice. Anyhow, I had a response from the teaching assistant within about 3 hours, so no issues there! Their demeanor is friendly, and willing to help.

Peer Interaction
For this class, as expected, group assignments are ... well ... nonexistant. ;-) However, that is not to say that there has not been some significant interaction on the forums for the class, and a little bit of phone calls and instant messaging. It's really quite heartening to see students answering other students' questions - and even moreso to see the staff (the teaching assistant, in particular) encouraging it. Many times, her responses will be nothing more than "Good job - great collaboration!", validating the answer given by the student, and encouraging future collaboration. You can tell from the forums that some folks are getting a really early start on things, and others are waiting until later - just another testament to the flexibility of the program.

What about the content? As mentioned in orientation, the primary source of material is in the online module, which is a combination of a little bit of streaming video, some reading, and interactive demonstrations and exercises. The content itsself is developed in-house by the school, and at least in this case, by the professor teaching the class. Compared with my undergrad statistics courses, the material is fairly high level - definitely more application-based than theory-based, but I certainly understand - and also appreciate - that.

The tools we use are a set of fairly well-developed Excel add-ins called StatTools. The student version of this was provided with the book. The book itsself is a pretty handy reference - application-based, but with enough theory for the nerds out there.

This course in particular seems to be a very good overview and application of statistics for business or manager-types. Our stated learning objectives are these:
  • Develop a conceptual understanding of statistical thinking
  • Develop data analysis skills
  • Enhance computer skills
  • Learn how to apply statistical methods and generalize to new problems and situations
So far, I'd say they are indeed being met. You won't be any kind of a professional statistician after this class, but that's not what it's made for - It's made to give us a firm grounding in the basics, capable of doing analyses on our own, and perhaps moreso, capable of understanding and interpreting results of analyses (by ourselves or others), so you can know when to call B.S.! ;-)

Here's the five modules that we'll be covering in this course:
  1. Describing data: Graphs, tables, and numerical summaries
  2. Statistical inference and sampling
  3. Regression
  4. Forecasting & Decision Analysis
  5. Statistical Process Control

I'm still honing my plan of attack. So far, it's like this:
  1. The Weekend - Review the coming week's module. Check and submit last week's quiz (due by Sunday), and exercises, if not already submitted.
  2. Monday - I have a previous engagement every Monday night, so I'll just review material or the forums as available.
  3. Tuesday - Begin the exercises, reviewing as I go.
  4. Wednesday - Finish the exercises, begin the quiz.
  5. Thursday - Finish the quiz - but don't submit it.
  6. Friday - Do nothing, and enjoy it. :-)
  7. Later, Rinse, Repeat.
Other than "The Weekend", all that happens at night after work. I have found that I cruise the forums during breaks at work, which helps to kind of keep concepts fresh throughout the day. Thus far, it seems to be working out alright for me.

I'm looking forward to the future weeks, as we're getting into regression and forecasting.

So far - great course.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

My ASU Classroom

Inspired by Chris, I thought I'd share a picture of my ASU virtual classroom... ;-)