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I want to pass along a recent essay from Inside Higher Education about MBA@UNC, the online program that the Kenan-Flagler Business School is offering in partnership with 2tor.  It was written by Steve Cohen, a person who describes himself as “[a]n outspoken critic of online education,” and who says that “most of the so-called technological advances I’ve seen are decidedly unimpressive.”

After being allowed to sit in on classes with MBA@UNC, however, “I’m now convinced that what Apple’s Mac did for the personal computer, the ‘MBA@UNC’ is about to do for higher education.”

Cohen was impressed because “there is real communication, not only between the teacher and the students, but among the students themselves.”  MBA@UNC “has created a virtual classroom that is more intimate than 90 percent of the seminars I’ve taught or taken.”  He was surprised by the quality of the highly produced videotaped (asynchronous) classes.  “They were a combination of field-produced segments, explanatory graphics and animation, and well-rehearsed stand-up pieces.  And the results were remarkably engaging.”

The most surprising aspect of the experience “was the sense of community that emerged from the computer screen.”  Cohen describes several students who “stayed late” to ask the professor questions, and “two students [who] paired-off after that to grab a beer together―virtually.”

I encourage you to read this short piece to learn more about what caused his conversion experience.  Kenan-Flager launched this program just about one year ago and they feel good about the one issue that matters most of all―the quality of the educational experience for the students.  They have set the bar high and I am excited about our faculty creating a similar experience for the students in MPA@UNC.  I am confident that we can do it.

2 thoughts on “MBA@UNC

  1. I’m in the middle of planning my first course with 2Tor. I’ll say it again – they are providing excellent support. The challenge for me is that I am being forced to lay out all my material in detail, weeks in advance, in planned short segments – every minute. Not only do the students have to be engaged for the whole time – they all have ‘front row seats’ as the essay says, I do too! I can’t plan on being able to just go into lecture mode where I am also not thinking, not engaged, but just passing on information. I will have to meet higher expectations in the same way the students will. I will be in the front row, center stage, for them. The higher engagement, higher expectations will go both ways. I think the on-line experience is going to put a lot of pressure on faculty to make all the material and time in the course be high value. No one will want to waste time and no one, not even the prof, will be able to hide in the back row. This is a good thing, but a little scary, too.

    1. It makes me laugh when I hear people being dismissive about the quality of MPA@UNC. I know that the faculty at the Business School believe that their online courses will be the best versions of those courses, ever. For all the reasons you list. You have to be so thoughtful about what you are trying to accomplish. There is no way to just go into the online classroom and wing it. Hang in there, Maureen, and your class will be great.

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