The MBA Intervew

Most Executive MBA programmes are highly selective and use various tools, including an application form and interview, to pick the course’s best candidates. Admissions officers are generally interested in three things; are you going to complete the course, are you going to do well, and what do you add to the cohort. 

Attrition rates can be as high as 23% for UK Masters degrees in some subject areas, and on average, 10% of MBA students will drop out before the end of the course. Many senior roles require an MBA as evidence that the applicant has well-rounded business knowledge that will allow them to lead large teams with significant budgets. If you are in a role where progression requires an MBA, then that is a good marker that you will complete. If not, you will need to provide evidence that you can commit to a long term commitment alongside your work. 

Masters degrees are graded into three categories, Pass, Merit, and Distinction, with students required to get a minimum of 50% in assessments to get a Pass, 60-69% to get a Merit, and over 70% for a Distinction. A part of the national and global ranking of a course is determined by the percentage of students who graduate and what grade they achieve, so admissions offices can be highly selective to keep these statistics high. You need to show that you can work at a high level and produce academic writing.

What you add to the cohort is particularly important for an MBA, where discussion, peer work, and networking form a large part of the course and a significant selling point for applicants. The Admissions Officers need to know that you fit with the course’s ethos and that you have unique perspectives on topics that will be covered to add to academic conversations. Finally, it is important that after graduation, you will raise the prestige of the course and institution by achieving things of note. For an Executive MBA, you should have a clear idea of what you want to achieve professionally and what sets you apart from other applicants.

The interview

Your application form’s success is largely down to your experiences and achievements so far and is not something that you can quickly improve. However, the interview is a chance for you to provide context to your application, so it is essential to prepare. An Executive MBA is a significant commitment of time and money, so the interview is also an opportunity for you to ask questions to help you make your decision if the course is right for you. 

The Admissions Officer will want to ask you questions about elements of your application, including details of your experience, your career goals, and how the course will help get you there. It is an excellent idea to do some reading about the course, and advisor you are meeting, past graduates, and come prepared to discuss personal and professional achievements. University cohorts and graduate opportunities are increasingly international, so it is essential to note your international experiences. 

QS HE insights and rating organisation suggest some questions that you should prepare some answers for before the interview:

  • Why the EMBA and what led you to make the decision about attending business school at this time?
  • How will the EMBA assist you in achieving your short and long term goals?
  • What are you looking to get out of the program?
  • Tell us about your work experience and how an MBA will fit with plans for the future?

Final notes

  • Treat it like an important meeting and dress appropriately.
  • Know what makes you stand out from other applicants.
  • Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve in your professional career and why an MBA is necessary.
  • Do some brief research on the admissions officer you will meet to show your interest and commitment
  • Have some notes around:
    • Your background
    • Education
    • Career history
    • Goals and aspirations for the future
    • Why this specific course is of interest to you
    • Why a business degree

The MBA where your teacher is a machine

Quantic.edu, formally Smart.ly, is an online MBA programme built by a former CEO of the Rosetta Stone language learning company. It is based on self-paced learning driven by questioning and then supported by live sessions for traditional discussion of case studies and group work. The aim is to make high-quality education cheaper, quicker, cheaper, and better at delivering outcomes. They have taken the learning by testing idea that has made Rosetta Stone so successful and repurposed it to help people learn business skills. 

To make education cheaper, the programmes primary instructor is software, which is then supported by live classes with humans. Around 80% of the cost of a degree in America is staff costs, so replacing the lecture with self-paced learning allows Quantic to offer their Executive MBA for just $9,600, significantly cheaper than other similar programmes. The programme is also quicker, taking 11 months to complete compared to the 18-24 months of a regular executive MBA. 

The company offers its regular MBA for free to the student. It acts as a recruiter, placing its graduates in jobs with tech firms like Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook, looking for a talented individual, and then charges the company a recruitment fee. They have been innovative with their admissions process too. Once a prospective student applies, they have to go through the self-paced business Foundations’ courses in the period before their submission is accepted, with the engagement in these courses being a part of the acceptance criteria.

The real innovation is in their active learning teaching method. The website states that there is individualised feedback every eight seconds. The free course I took averaged around fifty words to a page and taught through questioning the questions’ difficulty gradually increasing as your confidence builds. These tests are presumably ‘low stakes’, meaning your answers are not recorded, but rather it’s part of the teaching method to give regular feedback and allow you to get it wrong and provide the solution to correct you.

Research – just as good as a traditional MBA

A July 2016 study by Stanford University academics compared learning from Quantics’s online model to on-campus MBAs for finance and accounting modules. Quantic participants took a pre-test, completed a self-paced course, and then took a post-test. On-campus MBA students took only the post-test. The study concludes that ‘Preliminary analyses show learners in the Quantic groups performed as well as or better than MBA participants at post-test.’

The Quantic students improve an average of 29 percentage points in accounting and 33 percentage points in Finance from pre-test to post-test. The average post-test score was 86% (accounting) and 82% (Finance), which was 11% higher for accounting and 1% higher for Finance than the on-campus MBA students’ scores in the same test. Students also like it; Quantic received similar net promoter scores to Harvard and Wharton MBA programmes in the study but has since improved on this by introducing their blended model that supports machine-driven learning with live classes.

“This study supports the assertion that some of the foundational accounting and financial concepts taught in traditional brick-and-mortar MBA program can be learned independently, online through Pedago’s targeted Quantic active-learning courses. Significant improvement in students’ knowledge can be gained in as little as two hours of engagement with these courses.” Quantic efficacy study

The self-paced courses are not enough on their own. The study suggests that the materials be used as part of an MBA programme that includes cohort-based elements alongside. The two suggestions were for the machine taught content to acts as introductory materials before the MBA starts or as prerequisites to live sessions in a flipped learning approach.

If acting as introductory materials at the start of the course, they can enhance students understanding of fundamental ideas in hard to learn areas or bring students up to a similar starting level—the Prerequisite work for blended-learning classes. If used as prerequisite learning between live sessions, it can leave instructors more classroom time to explore case studies and interact with peers in group work. 

Podego – The tesla of education – cheaper and quicker to learn 

Quantic is run by Pedago, a private company that aims to ‘build an end-to-end talent engine.’ They state that the fourth industrial revolution is leading to disruption of the labour market, removing or changing the jobs people do, and that technology can help people become smarter and re-skill in the new job market.

Education + career matching = Talent engine

Podego

They want to be the ‘Tesla of education’, using technology to making it cheaper and quicker to learn new skills, using technology and new approaches. One such method is eliminating the lecture and replacing it with discovery-based learning, replacing the lecturer with a computer, and focusing on interactivity and personalised feedback and progression, supported by live online classes with humans.

They state that Quantic is the worlds first accredited, machine taught degree and that it is specifically designed for access on mobile as that is where modern students want to learn. Their MBA is their first course and acts as a proof of concept and aim to move into teaching programming, blockchain, robotics, and other subjects that represent a skills gap in the economy. 

The Education company of the future

MAKE IT ACCESSIBLE: We’re mobile-first, platform-agnostic, self-paced, and easily-translatable into every major language.

MAKE IT AFFORDABLE: We remove the cost barrier and the heavy student debt burden, ensuring access regardless of socioeconomic status.

MAKE CREDENTIALS VALUABLE: We admit students for degrees and certificates based on prerequisites and prospects for employment.

TIE IT TO CAREER: We link education directly to its ultimate benefit, motivating financial gain, career advancement and personal fulfilment.

MONETISE ON THE EMPLOYER: We help companies match with the ideal job-seeking student, with the desired skills, education, and culture fit, paying upon a successful hire in our career network.

Podego

I highly recommend you sign up for their free courses and experiment with the Quantic learning method. If I took anything from exploring a couple of their introductory courses, it was the idea of tracking the number of interactions a student gets in their on-demand content. Self-paced learning in courses is essential to make the class time more valuable but can often rely too heavily on content and not enough testing. Moving to a metric of ‘seconds per interactions’ might be too much of a jump for current HE lecturers, but ‘minutes per interaction’ might improve the student experience significantly.