Welcome To Virtual School

Like every other student across the country, I guess I’m technically an online student now and never imagined that I would be.

In fact, being an online student was never a method of learning that I had ever previously considered as an option for myself. I remember arguing with my Mom about my brother choosing to go to the University of Florida, because I knew he would be forced to take the majority of his courses online and “THAT’S JUST NOT SCHOOL!”.

I say that, because school is more than just going to class. Most of my learnings while at Vanderbilt happened outside of the classroom while running organizations and working on initiatives that I cared about. Mind you, I was an English and History major, but that’s neither here nor there.

My point is, what makes an educational experience rich is the people and situations that you encounter during that period of time that transform the way you think and view the world, giving you opportunities to learn in ways you couldn’t have thought possible. In business school, thats why we’re here! We’re here to network and build strong relationships with the next leaders of the world, while getting some serious foundational business education in the process. Online school makes fulfilling that prophecy slightly more difficult.

Quite a lot of my peers, as well as myself, are frustrated about the current situation – and rightfully so. At the highest level, online school just wasn’t was we paid for. Every single time we sit class it costs roughly $700 – $7,200 per course! Thats not chump change – it’s a serious investment. And, most universities similar to ours have chosen not to change the costs of tuition.

The big question is: Are online courses worth the same value as in-person courses?

I believe the unanimous answer across the board is an emphatic – NO. Staring at a screen for 3 hours at a time is simply not the same as being in class with you professor in front of you and your peers around you. But, there is some silver lining amidst this new reality that I think is worth noting.

In This Together

My professors this quarter have made me very proud to be a Booth student. As a Teachers Assistant (TA) for Professor Gregory Bunch’s New Venture Strategy course, I have seen first hand the amount of time and effort that he has put in to try to reach his lofty goal of making the course so good online, that students would actually choose the online version versus the in-person version in the future. With his tenacity – I believe this is do able. Through our conversations prior to class starting this spring quarter, Professor Bunch gave me the positive outlook that I needed to look at my first classes as an online student through a different lense. He reassured me that we’re in this together, and it meant more to me and my peers than I think he knows.

Luckily, the courses that I chose this quarter have translated very nicely to the virtual environment. I believe this is because my professors have made a sincere effort to not let circumstances negatively effect the learning experience. I would like to highlight how my professors have used the virtual learning environment to their and our advantage.

How My Professors Have Made The Best Of “Online School”

New Venture Challenge

I have watched Professor Steven Kaplan and Professor Mark Tebbe make our New Venture Challenge course completely compatible online, if not even more efficient than I would imagine the in-person course would be. The majority of this course is spent pitching our new venture businesses, this environment has allowed for judges and potential mentors from across the country to participate in class.

Literature and Strategic Leadership

This course is purely discussion based, which made me super nervous. However, Professor Brian Barry has figured out how to best train and utilize his TA’s to foster super strong and deep conversations using Zoom’s breakout sessions functions ( shout out to Aakanksha Pevekar for being an awesome leader). For a social butterfly like me who would definitely take advantage being able to chat in class, this more structured set up is surprisingly incredibly effective and efficient for open discussion.

Application Development

I would argue that this is the best quarter to take a class like Application Development, and Professor Raghu Betina is the shit. He has mastered the online environment and the tools he is using to teach are unbelievable. I would like to say he’s had a slightly better head start than most, because this virtual land is his wheel house. Nevertheless, I look forward to using our interactive slides and coding in real time with break out groups each week.

Managerial Decision Making

This is my only class that is totally pre-recorded lectures. But let me tell you, Professor Anuj Shah is hilarious in this dry humor nerdy way that keeps me entertained for 2+ hours. I have not yet needed to attend the live Q&A session that he offers each week, because his lectures are so comprehensive. But, I think I need to pop in at least to meet him “in-person”, I feel like we would be friends.

I could not imagine taking a hard core quant class, but some of my friends have said that being able to pause and rewind on pieces of lecture that they don’t grasp the first time has been helpful. However, I know that not all of my peers have had the same relatively positive experiences that I have had this quarter, which is unfortunate.

Online school is not a game changer, but it has changed the game for traditional students.

This new reality has shown me that online school for educational purposes when done well is powerful. You can learn anything anywhere. But, it can never replace the actual school experience – especially not the Booth MBA experience.

As we continue to move through this pandemic, the conversation now revolves around:

What happens if autumn quarter has to be online?

This is a tough question. The chances of not being able to return to Harper Center come September are very real and very high. Students are having to ask themselves if they should retain full-time student status or defer until things are back to normal. I wouldn’t be mad at those or myself if we chose to defer.

Think about it – if we do have virtual school this fall, we wouldn’t even know who is gone. We wouldn’t be able to see them anyways.