Thursday, June 28, 2007

Course Time Question

[Ed. note: I received a few very interesting questions/comments on my last post. I'm a busy guy right now - I was promoted at work a few months back, so that load has increased, and I'm also recently the proud father of a brand-new baby girl - both good things, but both eat my time - so I'll try and get to those comments/questions over the next few days/week or so.]

I had a question regarding my thoughts on what I boil down to the "quality" of class-time:
"Do you think that 5 weeks +1 week is too short to learn a course? How do you feel? Do you feel that there are something else important left out that you would like to explore?"
So, I thought I'd break it down question by question -

Course Duration
"Is 5+1 weeks too short to learn a course?"

The ASU standard academic calendar for Fall 2007 runs 20-Aug to 12-Dec (including finals); about 16.5 weeks. Back out 2 days off for Thanksgiving; 1 day off for labor day; 1 day off for Veteran's day - and let's call that 1 week backed-out (okay; 4 days; work with me), for a total of 15.5 weeks of class in a standard semester. Back out 6 more days for finals; call it one week, so we're at 14.5 weeks of instruction in a standard semester. Assuming 4 credit-hour classes, that's (14.5*4=) 58 hours of classtime instruction per class. Of course, you'd slap however much outside of class work needed on top of that.

The Online Program has 3 classes at 5 weeks of class, plus 1 week of finals, per class. The program advises to plan to spend 20-25 hours/week on class. So, that's 5 weeks @ 20 hours/wk = 100 hours of classtime instruction and outside of class work per class.

So, in short - the "class time hours" adds up to me. The question then becomes, is 5 weeks too short of a duration to "input" that much material?

In my opinion - no. "Mini-mesters" or "May-mesters" have been around for a while, and your standard brick-and-mortar B-schools also have some classes taken on a compressed or shortened basis, even within their regular term.

That, however, is not to say that it may not be a challenge! Some courses packed a lot of material into those 5 weeks. I do feel, however, that my original assumption that taking shorter (but more compact) classes in series, rather than longer (but "less dense") classes in parallel would be preferable, as the question of "focus" is easily answered.

The analogy I've used before is that of carrying bowling balls - the goal is to carry 30 pounds of bowling balls for 15 miles. You can:
  • Carry a single 30-pound bowling ball for 5 miles; stop and swap out for a different 30-pound bowling ball carried for 5 more miles; do it once more, or
  • Carry three 10-pound bowling balls for 15 miles straight.
The weight carried is the same; the distance traveled is the same - but something's just easier about only having to keep up with one bowling ball at time. ;-)

Exploring Other Stuff
"Do you feel that there are something else important left out that you would like to explore?"

This is one definite limitation of the online program - at least with ASU, you don't have the option to explore electives. I went in full-well recognizing this; that the degree offered was one in "General Management", and had no electives. That notwithstanding, I still wouldn't mind seeing some electives offered. The marginal cost to the program once a course exists is pretty minimal, so it's just a matter of getting the course developed.

So what would I have liked to explore? Additional (or more advanced) Supply Chain & Operations Management, and perhaps a variety of finance-related electives - namely perhaps around corporate valuation and derivatives.

All that said - It may be because I had other stuff going on, but by the end - I cannot honestly fathom having worked in an elective. ;-) Would it have been conceptually possible to have done electives over the summer break, or extend the program by a month or two? Yeah. Would I have gone completely crazy if so? Yeah. ;-)

Anyway - hopefully that answers the commenter's questions. If not, post back, and I'll get back to it as I have time (with a newborn at home, it now comes at a premium! ;-) ...).

4 comments:

Alex said...

It's also worth noting that the MBA program at ASU does not offer a business law course.

Tracy's da Vinci Lawsuits blog said...

Questions are great way to determine how far you've learned so far in the course. What do you think?

IIBS Online said...

Nice post and thanks for sharing.

levice willson said...

Thanks for the informative article. I wanted to inquire if online MBA is equivalent to a one-year MBA program and does it include specialized subjects. What is the schedule of classes in this program?