The Value of the Classroom

The fall semester was as to be expected, busy. Managerial accounting built on a solid foundation of what I had started in my undergraduate accounting class. The lectures were interactive and geared toward adult-learners. The class format was typical for most MBA programs with one midterm, one final and a small percentage of the final grade reserved for homework completion.

In returning to school 10 year after earning my undergraduate degree, I was forced to adjust to new tools like Blackboard and Moodle. These online tools allow the faculty and staff to post the syllabus, any class announcements, assignments and more onto a site accessible to any student via the web. They also allow for interactivity between students through discussion boards, digital dropboxes, chat features and more. While this initially took some getting used to, when it was paired with online book components, these online tools were a valuable part of my learning experience through the last several years. I could practice what I’d learned in the lectures and my professor could see where either my classmates or I were having issues.

I had the chance to get the extreme version of this while taking an online-only class this fall to complete an undergraduate statistics requirement, the final prerequisite for me to complete the MBA program. Luckily Elon allows us to take the classes concurrently with our graduate coursework and makes course transfers simple. I took the course through this ‘major online university’ simply because a community college or Elon course did not fit into my schedule, and due to the fact that I had to take it prior to starting my winter semester class.

Five week of statistics can only be compared to drinking through a fire hose.

The short time period was not the only thing that made me long to be in an Elon classroom again. The learning was 100 percent self-directed, with the only opportunity for professorial interaction via an online discussion board. There were no lectures or helpful videos as you might see offered on iTunes or YouTube. The class consisted of reading, doing the online homework, posting in a discussion board with substantive posts, working in teams on group projects and taking the tests online.

The class was a success for me as I learned what I feel was a good start in statistics that reinforced and supplemented what I know from years in medical sales, working with and presenting scientific data. I also earned a very positive score that made me proud of my work.

But in the end, the class made me grateful for the classroom interaction at Elon. While there is value in an online component to class, I am extremely glad to be in a true classroom once to twice a week. It is impossible to learn from the experiences of your colleagues if you never see them face-to-face. The networking opportunities of small group projects and social interactions is irreplaceable. I’ve heard a rumor that Elon will soon offer all of the prerequisites for their MBA students, in the same way that the Finance Foundation course is now presented. In terms of my learning style and what I get out of the MBA program, I can only see that as a positive step for future cohorts. An MBA program is not just about what you learn. It’s about the experience of the classroom, the interaction with your professor, area business leaders and your peers. And as of yet, I don’t think you can get that all out of an online program.

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