2 Schools Launch “The New Online MBA”

There are 2 schools that are recently new in the last year, that present alternatives to studying for a traditional MBA. The premise for them both is that MOOC style education doesn’t work. There’s no denying that most students who enroll in online courses do not finish them. Both camps agree what’s missing is student engagement. But each have a unique approach to the solution. And if you carefully consider their solutions you’ll see they are solving very different problems.

These two amazing programs have completely different purposes. One is to build credibility and become job-worthy. The other is to learn how to challenge organizational and marketplace status quo.

Seth Godin says that if something is worth learning, then it will get hard. And as soon as it gets hard and there’s no social peer pressure, then people drop out.  His solution is to make the opposite of an online course. Instead of anonymously listening to lectures, you do an intense sprint of projects in collaborative groups – remotely.

Seth Godin’s: http://altMBA.com

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Smart.ly is an online platform for MBA style business courses developed by a team who previously led Rosetta Stone. That should give a you really big clue to how smart.ly solves the attrition problem. They believe that online education is simply too passive and the solution is to make courses that are a continuous series of interactive questions.

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They are basically bringing the Rosetta Stone type of method for learning languages to an MBA curriculum.

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The business models for these 2 companies are completely different. altMBA.com is purely an educational program like a traditional school, and it’s expensive. Smart.ly is a tech play that functions as a recruitment incubator. It offers programs for free for students and it appears they are banking on making dollars by offering up top performing students to the workforce.

That’s a good idea. But clearly this platform is solving a human resources problem for corporations, not an educational one for individuals. If you have read Dan Pink’s Drive you know we humans need autonomy, mastery, and purpose in our lives to feel motivated. Being a cog in the machine won’t make you happy in the long run.

Yes we need for students to learn business fundamentals. But we need to do it in a way where there’s a connection to a greater purpose. Smart.ly doesn’t address that need for students. So I’m betting they’ll only get slightly better completion rates than a lecture based MOOC.

The world needs more leaders, not more cogs. The key is to take your career into your own hands and find a way to solve problems that other people have in a way that’s meaningful to you.


Josh Race is a writer, community leader, technologist, husband, and father. He writes about learning and innovation, especially about impact of structured groups on personal performance. He is also the founder of the Heroic Platform, which makes it possible to sell online collaborative courses from your own website. More at http://joshrace.com