Monday, September 26, 2005


Our prof for our current class posted this message this morning:

Well, I have no idea how she did it, but [STUDENT] got her quiz done before the deadline last night (even though she didn't have to make that deadline). Since she had no internet connection, she phoned in the answers to [ADMINISTRATOR]'s voice mail! This ranks up there with the all-time hurricane award winners (from last year) for going above and beyond under unbelievably bad circumstances.

We all wish [STUDENT] and her family (and all of the others who are storm affected) the long run of good luck that they so richly deserve!

Wow! As some background, [STUDENT] was chased out of New Orleans to Houston by Katrina, and then again out of Houston by Rita. Recall, while we are in our classes, we have one quiz due each week, Sunday night (not to mention an exercise to Saturday night). Forget the act of actually taking the quiz; what is more monumental to me is that she was able to cover the material enough to feel comfortable taking the quiz, when she could have "taken a pass". This says two great things to me:

  1. The caliber of students in our program is exceptional. I mean... Talk about dedication!
  2. The faculty/staff really do care about your education, and will do everything reasonably possible to accomodate any extenuating circumstances.
Anyhow - just an interesting point of info - I thought it was really impressive.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

WSJ: The Full Time Advantage

In effort to present both sides of the story - here's a pretty interesting article in the WSJ that touts the advantages of full-time over part-time, and online as a subset of part-time:

WSJ: The Full Time Advantage

Personally, I think they present some good points, and some bad ones. Namely, of the good ones, is one that I have told many, many people:

If your goals post-MBA are:
  • Specifically looking to get into high-powered investment banking or management consulting
  • Specifically looking to change careers/industries
  • Specifically looking for a new employer
then you should strongly consider a full-time program.

If your goals post-MBA are:
  • Enhancing your current career and prospects within your current employer
  • Keeping yourself marketable/competitive
  • Bettering yourself through learning
then online (or part-time) is an excellent option, in my opinion.

It's not to say you can't switch employers at all with an online degree (many of my fellow classmates provide evidence to the contrary of that, even before completing the program), or that you shouldn't go full-time if you wish to return to your original organization - just some rules-of-thumb.

One other point touched on in the article that I firmly agree with is that whether you are pursuing full-time, part-time, or whatever - it's still just a degree. It's not a magic ticket entitling you to anything. As noted in the article by a recruiter from Bain, "Frankly, we look at individuals and their accomplishments and capabilities, without distinguishing part-time from full-time from executive." You can have an MBA from Wharton, but if you can't back it up with relevant, progressing work experience, it will be worth little more than one from Degrees-R-Us. Similarly, if you go online, and don't work to apply your learning through relevant, progressing work experience, you will have a similarly worthless piece of paper. Bottom line: You can't rest on your laurels, however pretty and laurely they are.

In short, though, yes - people are still going to be wondering a bit about online education, for the next few years; some more than others. I' m a firm believer that it's here to stay, though, and will only become more accepted as time goes on.

I do find some fault with the article for not really exploring online options other than Duke and degree-mills - it's like the North and South Poles. There's just a little bit in between. Okay, they touch on specific traditional part-time and E-MBA programs, but little else is mentioned of online programs, save a quick note on Babson. Granted, their purpose in writing wasn't to list a bunch of programs, but it could've been a bit more researched to that end - the section detailing the issues with online programs is noticeably un-peppered with specific schools, as the earlier sections of the article are.

One of the recruiter's remarks really showed a lack of research or understanding and pre-judgement, but that implies they don't care to try and understand - which as a student considering online education, you need to be aware of. "Another said he had been asked to teach courses in online programs for which he felt unqualified, leading him to conclude that they are 'scams.'" Okay, fine - I would have a really bad taste in my mouth, too. Notice that neither the recruiter, nor the WSJ, mentions the plenty of respectable online programs out there. I somehow doubt that Duke uses adjuncts. I know that ASU doesn't. The thing to watch, though, is that human predisposition to generalize - Some school called this recruiter to teach in their online program, he didn't feel qualified, therefore they must all be scams.

One other point, as noted in the article, is on communications and classmate interaction. Specifically, it's cited as another reason to go full-time over online. I really feel this is a big part of the experience - online or otherwise. Personally, I feel that I've had a great deal of interaction with a number of my classmates, they same way I interact with teams I am on at work - by phone, e-mail, forums/chats, and so on. No doubt - there is definitely something to be said for in-person interaction. However, by the same token, there is no doubt that distributed teams and companies are more and more commonplace, and perhaps even outrank non-distributed teams. Interacting on and managing distributed teams will be a critical skill in the more and more knowledge-based economy, and I feel this is one area where online students have an edge.

I'll leave you with the closing quote from the article, from the dean at Babson, that sums up my stance:
"Online M.B.A.s may not have the same market power and cachet right now as other types of degrees," says Dr. Rice. "But I predict that 10 years from now, there will be top managers at companies who did an online program and who will be able to say it worked for them."

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Classmate Interaction

I thought I'd do a quick-and-dirty post on how the interaction with my other virtual classmates is going.

The primary communication medium is the forums. This is one benefit that the paradigm of a digital classroom has over a physical one - if you miss the answer to a question or are out for a day (not to say you'd ever skip class, right??) in a physical class, then the answer is just gone, unless you have someone there taking notes for you, and then you get into whether or not they wrote it down completely, translated it to you correctly - it gets a bit like the game telephone.

With a digital class, when a professor (or student!) answers a question, it's there for everybody to see - everybody gets to see it, save it, reference it, AND search it! Searchability is very nice - no digging through your class notes for "point estimate" or whatever; just search it, and whammo - there it is! Of course, this gap will close as more people take notes in class digitally, but it's still nice to have a written, searchable record of exactly what the professor said.

I have worked with some of my other classmates a good bit, just helping each other to understand concepts - a few via phone, but mostly instant messaging and e-mail. It's been really neat getting to know these folks - coincidentally, the ones I talk with most are in Arizona.

Anyhow, because I'm a huge nerd, I thought I'd try to show what the forum activity looked like by number of posts, for anyone reading this that can't go and see for themselves.

I'd say for class one (QBA 502), it's pretty consistent with the course difficulty - the first week, the whole school thing (nevermind the course) was brand new, so some pretty reasonable volume. It really ramped up the second week, that week being advertised in advance as the hardest week of the course, and then tailed off as a the course got easier. Recall week 6 is the Final Exam week. You might think there would be more posts there, but between no questions being answered after the final was available (Wednesday of that week - see post-mortem on the course for more), and the other week's forums available for review and searching - it makes a little more sense.

Our current course (Managerial Economics, which I'll wait to week 3 or 4 of to review) - which we're just ending the first week of (there are already more posts for Week 1 than when I made this chart!) - has already seen much higher posting volumes. I'd say this is accurate - For me, at least, this has been more difficult material. I do enjoy Econ, but it's a little fuzzier by nature, and is not as cut-and-dry as statistics is. Of course, a good bit of it has been some good class discussion on examples of theories in practice - e.g. economic profit in the real world, marginal cost & benefit in the real world, etc. Week 2 is obviously quite low, because it's just now starting. ;-)

Recall there's 60 people in the cohort, so your average post per person only looks like 2-3 per week at the most - a more interesting analysis would be to Pareto that by person, because as you can imagine, some people post quite heavily (guilty ;-) ...), whereas others might not post at all. Of us active and semi-active posters, I think we've got quite the community going on - lots of good discussion, students-helping-students, and insightful examples of application of business theory, etc. Of the inactive posters, I'd say that ... well ... I don't know what to think, because they don't post. They're like that one student in each undergrad class (come on - I know you all knew him/her - or were him/her) who never showed up to your class except to take the tests (if then!). And to be fair - for the courses so far, at least, posting (or even reading, but I can't imagine getting by without that!) is not required.

Time willing (ha!), I'll try and keep this little chart updated regularly-ish, and maybe to some more extra nerdy analysis, such as true average posts per person, a Pareto chart, maybe a little histogram of posting volume, words per post, total words posted - we'll just go crazy, here! ;-)

QBA 502 - Managerial Decision Analysis Post-Mortem

Okay, I've been a slacker and haven't posted in a month. All I was committing to was one post per class, and here I'm going to try and do TWO! Though, this one will likely be brief - just wanted to get a post-mortem on Statistics. Yes, it's a good two weeks after the fact - I'm gettin' there!

As promised, weeks 2 and 3 were the toughest. I got through them alright, though - again, having had a good bit of statistics, the course was overall a good reintroduction to school for me.

Weeks 4 and 5 were very much easier - predicated on your understanding of the prior weeks, anyway.

The final exam was actually rather tough. Primarily this was because of the way it was administered, though I appreciate the respect for equality. Basically, the professor wanted to make sure each student had the same information for the final - so, he just elected to not answer any more questions after the final was made available, which was Wednesday of week 6 (due Sunday night). This was a widely publicized fact, well in advance, so it wasn't like it was a surprise announcement or anything. A little "all or nothing", I guess, but I appreciate that everybody who took the final - nation- and world-wide - had the exact same experience/information/etc that I did - nobody had the advantage over me of extra information. However, that didn't make it any easier, when I had questions I really wanted some clarification on. I think I'm a bit scarred from my undergrad, in that I read into every single question way more than is necessary. So it goes, though. I did use one of the positive aspects of my scarring from undergrad, and clearly stated any and all assumptions where I had to make them, and most of those were taken into account in the grading, so I suppose it all works out.

All in all, I can't complain - I'm satisfied with my grade. And it was a good course - presented some bigger picture thinking and inference off statistics, to emphasizing "what the numbers really mean", rather than just straight number-crunching, "plug-and-chug", which I really enjoyed and appreciate.

One down - eleven to go! ;-)