IE Business School Online Masters
Ram Parasuraman
January 4, 2010

Happy New Year 2010!

Let me take the pleasure of welcoming you all to this blog this new year! We at the Global MBA class of 2010 are back after enjoying a restful break. Yes, some of us were missing classes and forums, but for sure we’re going to be immersed full time into this throughout this year, so for me, it could wait until Jan 4th 😉 Some homeworks, assignments, presentations and even casitos are due this week and slowly but surely we are heading back to the books.

This was the first break since our program began and only first of two significant two breaks we enjoy during the program. It gave me a good chance to reflect on the time that has been, how I have managed my time, work-study-life balance (if there is one) and if there are ways  I can change or improve things this new year. Sure enough, lots of resolutions emerged and the top one from there was time management, especially on the asynchronous portion of the program, that is the discussion forums.

Now discussion forums at first glance don’t immediately make sense when you consider that emails, web forums and the like are quite informal, haphazard and irregular as such. But IE brings in some good deal of structure to this format and uses it quite well to enhance learning throughout the week in between online lectures. Forums are an integral part of the course and this makes it very different from other face to face MBA programs.

For one, you have assigned readings and need to be prepared well before the forum begins;  and second, you have continuous access to your professor and classmates as though they were your colleagues at work, who sit right across from you, but send email. Only here, they are almost always helpful 😉 Now which full time or Part time MBA guarantees that you get atleast 4-5 opportunities to speak in each class and the ability to converse with your professors each day in the week?

The forums are moderated continuously not just by the professors, who facilitate the learning, but also by students who read and respond to other posts. Each week in the forums, we discuss a specific concept, which keys off from a HBS or IE Case Study. The professor asks leading questions, which the class responds to, bringing in their global and industrial diversity. Unlike in a real class, where the time between the professor posing a question and the first answer coming up is a few seconds, here, you can take even an hour to think about the issue raised, t o process the information and to relate to your own experience, how you have dealt with an issue of this kind in the past. Then even as you are typing, a classmate posted his or her view on the subject and that makes you think differently and add a different angle. In class, I am sure 5 or 6 of us would raise our hand and one of us gets to speak what all of us wanted to say. Have you been there?

We are there too… there is the Hermoine from Harry Potter who always answers first and the Ron who never wants to answer and everyone in between. But the thing is, there is no Professor Flitwick who just rewards points and moves on after the question is answered and certainly no Professor Snape, who deducts points for answering out of turn or a Prof Trewalney who does not even listen to your answer 😉 Here, each professor we have had so far, takes the time to read each response, address us directly and indicate the key learnings for each question posed. There are no strict right or wrong answers like we see in most cases in life. Some professors even take the time to post multiple PDF files with contributions from us, from them and from useful sources and articles from around the web. I am a strong believer that all this strongly enhances discussions. For instance, when we are working on a Marketing case, it helps immensely to look at different examples of advertising or positioning products from Youtube.  How many times would a professor teaching live in a classroom like it if you tell her that you are browsing Youtube for good examples to share with class?

The fun part of the forum is that it is always on! Just as it is getting time for me to get to bed after reading the last few unread posts in the forum and then add my own, there’s my classmate in Europe that has just woken up to read the messages posted from the Western and Far Eastern hemispheres. Similarly, when she winds up for the night, folks in Japan and Singapore are having their morning Coffee while reading the forums. The forum addiction that many of my colleagues have spoken about in their posts is simply caused by the fun and amount of learning that is attained through this medium. I believe this is a very valuable mode of learning and if you are lucky to have  a class and teaching staff as good as I do, you’ll be always on your toes, pushed to do better, to think longer between posts and enrich the learning for one and all.  Most posts in our class are as good as reading an article in the newspaper or business journal. I would write more, but time to post my next entry into the Strategy forum, so I’ll see you later!


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