How MOOCs Could Benefit Both Schools and Prospective MBA Students | TopMBA.com

How MOOCs Could Benefit Both Schools and Prospective MBA Students

By Seb Murray

Updated June 3, 2019 Updated June 3, 2019

Business schools are exploring the possibility of using MOOCs (massive open online courses) to assess prospective MBA students in the admissions process.  

MBA programs have long looked for new ways to evaluate candidates and some see MOOCs as a unique way to gain additional information on prospective MBA students’ strengths and weaknesses.  

“We are looking for other information to evaluate students, and that is where MOOCs are headed” 

“MOOCs are good way to evaluate a student beyond their GMAT score,” said Gautam Kaul at Michigan Ross, referring to the standard business school entry test. 

“All business schools evaluate students on the GMAT; to me that is silly, as all schools are using the same information. We are looking for other information to evaluate students, and that is where MOOCs are headed,” Kaul added, although he did not say Michigan Ross planned to introduce MOOCs into its admissions process. 

Wharton Online’s senior director, Anne Trumbore, said: “Given that our applications are so competitive, MOOCs would never be seen as a negative.” Wharton received 6,679 applications to its MBA last year; 851 were subsequently admitted and enrolled.  

Kaul envisages a model in which business schools could admit candidates to degree programs based, in part, on how they perform in a relevant MOOC. The theoretical idea here would be that successful candidates could then skip certain modules once they are on the degree.  

Online courses as a prelude to a full degree 

Some business schools are already moving in this direction. The UK’s Open University (OU) lets participants of certain MOOCs earn academic course credit towards its MBA degree and bypass some of their first year. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign lets learners who complete six online courses on the MOOC platform, Coursera, apply for admission and earn a degree from its College of Business.  

Elsewhere, MIT’s MicroMasters courses offer ‘inverted admissions’, whereby students can prove their abilities via online courses, giving universities more data to inform admissions decisions. “MicroMasters broadens our admissions pool and allows learners to demonstrate their abilities through a series of online courses,” said Sanjay Sarma, VP for open learning at MIT.  

MOOCs can “help you decide whether to get an MBA” 

MOOCs were initially viewed as a disruptor to the higher education sector, but they have seemingly become a valuable tool for business schools, many of which are using them to market their paid-for programs. Business schools say MOOCs are a good way for prospective MBA students to ‘try before they buy’ an expensive degree program.  

“MOOCs are good for anyone considering getting an MBA,” said Michael Koenig, who heads the MOOCs effort at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. “They can help you get a feel for the core material at low or no cost. They can also help you decide whether to get an MBA, and where to get it from.”

This article was originally published in July 2017 . It was last updated in June 2019

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Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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