MOOCs: No Replacement for the Classroom

For most who know me, you know that I’m addicted to education. Now on my 6th degree, I may actually go into physiologic withdrawal if I am not constantly learning something.

February 20, 2014

As we draw closer to graduation, a number of people have asked what degree I’ll do next – Law?  Education?  Perhaps a PhD?  Some have chided me that when people say “stay in school”, they don’t mean “forever”.  Truthfully, mine is not truly an addiction to the letters behind my name, but rather an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

I’ve recently done a couple of MOOCs – the latest in the craze of educational media for the masses.  For the uninitiated, a MOOC is a massive open online course, and there are several that Yale and other high powered universities offer in a variety of areas.  I did one on Philanthropy, and another on Leading through Emotional Intelligence.  Both were pretty good – but were a far cry from the experience you get being in a classroom of people with real-time live banter.  Hence it was amazing for me to read the recent Poets and Quants article that professed that one could essentially create the equivalent of an MBA in piecemeal fashion through a patchwork of MOOCs. 

Perhaps you would be able to get some semblance of the didactic component; and without a doubt, the lecture schedule is very convenient (i.e., whenever you want), the attire is casual (i.e., pajamas in bed) and the tuition is very affordable (i.e., free).  But if given the choice between the experience I’ve had over the past 18 months or a series of MOOCs, there is no doubt I would make the same decision again in a heartbeat.  The interactions with the professors, the collegiality among classmates, and the experiences both in and outside of the classroom are priceless – and no MOOC could ever replace that. 

This isn’t to say that there isn’t a role for online education.  I thought the webcasts, for example, that accompanied the conference marking the opening of Evans Hall were spectacular…. But that’s not an MBA; and in my very humble opinion, nothing compares to the outstanding experience afforded by a bricks and mortar education with phenomenal profs, and a close cohort of like-minded friends as classmates.

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Anees Chagpar

MBA for Executives, 2014