Pure distance learning is like trying to review a restaurant by merely looking at its menu. Despite best intention and sincere effort, you will lose out on the actual experience.
Much of the learnings in an MBA come from student-teacher and peer to peer interaction. You get none of that when you simply order course material and pore over it alone.
Much of the value of an MBA comes from its selection process. While full time MBA admissions are highly competitive and grueling, and even good part time programs apply some selectivity, distance learning course dispatch their courseware to anyone who’ll fork out the cash for it.
The two most popular distance learning programs (apart from IGNOU, which most discount) are offered by Symbiosis Centre of Distance Learning (SCDL) and ICFAI. Students are quite happy with the quality of courseware from both institutes. They’re not happy with its lack of effect on their careers.
Delhi based Jaspreet Chandhok is pursuing a PGDBA (Marketing) from SCDL. A BCA from IP University, he joined BPO Convergys soon after his final sem exams. “Fortunately, I got chances to excel and kept learning lessons of the "Work /Job World", and hence am still sticking in the same organization, “ says Jaspreet. Hungry for a post-grad qualification, he joined SCDL (“considering the hype of Symbiosis”).
He now feels, however, that the course is of absolutely no use. “I did gain knowledge but much of it was pretty basic. One doesn't need to go though books and "online exams" to prove his skills in these areas.”
He’s seen no gains in his career linked to distance learning – and isn’t about it even in the near future. It’s much the same story with Harikrishnan J, an Infosys engineer who completed his “Online MBA” from SCDL 6 months ago.
“The courseware is very good, lucid and manageable for a working person. It has given me good understanding of business concepts”. But job prospects wise - no gains. “ None of my technical work (I work as a Software Engg @ Infosys since 2003) deals with management and hence it hasn't helped me in this regard. And since my company doesn't accept this kind of MBA this course doesn’t help me climb up the coporate ladder yet.”
Try shifting? You can get a higher paying technical job but not a functional role. “Most openings, when advertised, give a disclaimer that Part-Time / Distance MBAs are not considered”. Of course Harikrishnan believes many full time MBAs (leave out IIMs and ISB) are in a similar boat. “I know a guy here who did his MBA from Cardiff Business School UK and came back to Infosys . He is working as a software tester”.
The verdict: Keep a distance from distance learning, from the point of view of impact on earning. Of course, there’s no harm – if you really just want to learn.
first published in March 2007 in Businessworld's Mega Indian Bschool Guide.
also read: The Part time MBA puzzle