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. 

Three Pedagogic approaches

Most people teach as part of their everyday lives and become good at it. They develop their teaching as an art, learning to explain things clearly, be patient, sharing just enough but not too much, and learning to read people to see if they have understood. For those who teach as a profession, we must take this art and add science to approach teaching systematically. This science helps us understand how learning happens, how to organise teaching to improve its effectiveness, what works for learners, and how we assess that learning occurred.

Pedagogy the method and practice of teaching that attempts to collect the science of learning into practical application. Three common types of learning pedagogies are: 

  • Didactic
  • Authentic
  • Transformative.

Didactic pedagogy is an effective method for large scale education in groups and teaching the basics of education, such as reading, writing, and discipline. It is a teacher-led approach where they, along with textbooks, are the authority of knowledge, and students absorb this knowledge presented to them often with little critical investigation or questioning of the source. University modules that involve a series of lectures and readings followed by a written exam where the student is questioned on the material is an example of didactic pedagogy.

Authentic pedagogy is learner-centred and expects the student to participate in the knowledge transfer and understand the learning through real-life experiences. There is less emphasis on learning through repetition but rather through building understanding from the ground up through self-direct inquiry, problem-solving, and reflection. This can be a slow and involved process, it requires a solid base of the basics, and not everything needs a deep level of understanding. Inquiry-based learning is an excellent example of authentic pedagogy. Students are given questions, problems, or scenarios and are expected to do their own research and then present their findings. 

Transformative pedagogy recognises the changing nature of technology and modern society and that knowledge may not currently exist to address what students need to learn. Instead, transformative approaches focus on problem solving, co-design, and producing new knowledge. One method of transformative pedagogy is project-based learning, where students are presented with a question or issue as a starting point; they then have work to produce a product to address it.  

These three teaching approaches have a place in the modern classroom and in preparing students for the world after university. There is a level of basic facts, knowledge and processes that are needed. Students then need to learn to question authority and established norms to develop a deeper understanding of the world. Finally, learners need to be able to deal with incomplete problems and generate new knowledge and approaches specific to the context they are in. If you were designing a higher learning course, you might even want to divide it into three discrete stages, building from didactic to authentic and finishing with transformative learning…