Online MBA: 5 Biggest Surprises


Happy to see you again!

It’s been a long time.

10 or 20 years for many online MBAs. Let’s just say that education has changed some.

As undergraduates, many still sat in lecture halls. They took notes and raised their hands like the GenXers and Boomers before them. Their definition of digital was accessing a publisher’s learning management platform, through expensive and unreliable passcodes. Of course, they did team projects here and there. When they entered the world of work – filled with dashboards and whiteboards – graduates still experienced a shock… initially. Soon they became digital dynamos as Zoom and Slack became indispensable tools.

To their surprise, they learned that the business school had adapted as quickly as their employers.

Juventino Uriarte

“My online experience was very different from my traditional classroom experience,” says Juventino Uriarte, a 2022 online graduate from Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business. “For my undergrad, class times were fixed, assignments were mostly paper-based, and textbooks were large and heavy. For the MBA, everything is now in digital format and has made everything convenient – ​​most, if not all, textbooks were available digitally and assignments can be saved in the cloud. This means that I could complete the course material from a laptop, tablet, or even my cell phone. »

Not only have these tools made online MBAs more effective individually, but they have also filled in the gaps and broken down the barriers that have allowed them to work more closely as a team. “I’m old enough to prefer talking on the phone to texting, so I was surprised at how easy it was to build meaningful relationships using video conferencing,” notes Casey Timmons, a McKinsey associate who earned her online MBA from the Tepper School of Carnegie Mellon this spring. Working as a group on Zoom on shared spreadsheets to make sure everyone in the group understood what was going on and that we had the right answer was way more enjoyable than I could have imagined. In many ways, it was easier to interact with a more diverse group because the online platform allowed people to vary the times and days they could interact with each other. »

The quality of the technology wasn’t the only difference that stunned the class of 2022. As part of the Best & Brightest Online MBA nomination process, P&Q asked candidates to share the biggest surprise they experienced in a digital education environment. Here are some of the biggest transitions they have faced:

1) Increased collaboration: “The most surprising aspect is the high level of cross-collaboration as well as cross-functional knowledge. You are usually paired up in teams of 3-4; with this team, you tackle simulations, case studies and articles. Each teammate working in a different industry and in a different function, so in every meeting you hear a completely different point of view in relation to your area of ​​work.I was surprised at how much that level of “d ideas bouncing off each other” was always very much maintained in an online environment. For example, a team might consist of a financial analyst, a human resources manager, a supply chain consultant and from a member of Risk Compliance, and each team member will provide their own cost-benefit analysis during the virtual meeting, allowing you to weigh factors you may not have e not considered before. »
Joseph Arrunategui, University of Florida (Warrington)

Maria Ilundain, 22, a graduate of Arizona State’s WP Carey School of Business

“I was surprised at the degree of interaction with classmates and professors that still occurs in the online learning environment. It helps students feel interconnected and gain experiences similar to those of an in-person learning environment.Each course has been designed with interactive elements ranging from online discussion forums to optional live sessions with peers and faculty to provide opportunities for relationship building and learning. I also felt there were many opportunities where students could leverage their professional work experiences and connect them to course learning, which made the course material even more engaging and transferable. It was fascinating to learn from the professional experiences of classmates with varied backgrounds, different industry experiences, and different approaches. unique problem-solving skills to further my personal and professional development. »
Maria IlundainArizona State (WP Carey)

Regarding an MBA, I was surprised by the amount of team exercises in the program. Although the students are spread all over the world, there is a lot of collaboration. As such, it definitely puts your time management and communication skills to the test.
Richard Maness, University of Arizona (Eller)

2) Stronger commitment: “I wasn’t sure about my level of engagement with an online course, but I was pleasantly surprised that the learning environment was just as interesting and engaging as the in-person sessions. Most of our lectures were recorded, which we could watch asynchronously, while our lectures were for discussion only, allowing us to hear and learn from both the teacher and the students.”
Svetlana (Sveta) Vodicka, Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

Paul Cornwell, ’22 graduate of [email protected] (Kenan-Flagler School)

3) Greater student engagement: “The most surprising thing in my online experience has been an (almost) universally high level of engagement. Students in this program have a million things going on in their lives. Combined with the fact that UNC n don’t award GPAs for graduate programs, it might inspire us to take the path of least resistance to graduation.Despite this, I found most of my group members to be eager to learn, responsible and determined to do a good job. Reflecting on my experience now, I realize how critical it is to have a motivated and engaged cohort.”
Paul Cornwell, University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

4) Mix of learning styles: “I was really surprised how effective the mix of asynchronous and live learning was. The pre-readings and asynchronous videos appealed to my traditional learning style, but I enjoyed the that class time was not spent in class, but rather really digging into the content, applying it, discussing with peers, and cementing my understanding of the concepts. . Class time was not not a busy job, but rather intentionally designed to engage me and provide opportunities for connection. In the end, I decided that I would much rather learn in this modality than in the traditional in-person environment.”
Sarah WingfieldIndiana University (Kelley)

5) A larger opening: “Perhaps it shouldn’t have been so surprising, given what we know on social media, but in an academic context, I think a lot of people felt less embarrassed to ask ‘the dumb question. ‘ – which is great. It opened up some of the most interesting class discussions.
Jamie Patton, Warwick Business School


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