Students & Careers

Why I Turned Down a Top Business School

Business man holding a puppy

The following is a guest post from Chris Queen, a Smartly MBA graduate and small animal veterinarian living and working in Dubai. Chris is a massive, self-proclaimed nerd, interested in the power of technology, including virtual and augmented reality, to revolutionize education. When he isn’t caring for pets or writing, he can be found running, swimming and cycling towards his next Ironman race or jumping from a perfectly good plane in the name of skydiving. Chris’ blog can be found at www.thenerdyvet.com and he can be found on Twitter at @thenerdyvet

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For years, I was convinced that gaining an MBA from a top business school would lead to guaranteed success and happiness.

After all, they take in ambitious, creative, entrepreneurial types and spit out brand new Masters of the Universe at the other end, all guaranteed to progress on to business success, right?! Cue the all too familiar gauntlet of GMAT tests, poring over school brochures and websites, campus visits, ‘meet-and-greets’, and the endless hours of application preparation and submission, each costing on average about $150. In total, I have easily spent in excess of $4,000 simply getting to the stage of hitting the ‘submit’ button on various applications.

I am a small animal veterinarian and I’m at the stage in my career, and life, where I am acutely aware of the question, “Where am I going next?” Not completely enamoured of the usual, predictable and ‘safe’ options, and, to be perfectly honest, somewhat disillusioned with much of my current profession, I looked towards an MBA as being the answer. I have entrepreneurial ambitions, specifically within the tech sector, and so it seemed logical that formal business training, with the plethora of additional advantages that attending a top school offers, was exactly what was called for. I know for a fact that I would find the experience of spending 1-2 years in a major seat of learning and culture with equally ambitious sorts from all corners of the globe a wonderful one indeed. And so it was that my journey to business school began.

Coming from a non-traditional ‘quantitative’ career such as veterinary medicine, I was keen to bolster my familiarity with the core MBA curriculum and came across the Smartly app. Instantly drawn into the simple, immersive, bite-sized, and beautifully presented lessons that had a fun, game-like feel I found myself a dedicated user, powering through all of the available lessons and eagerly awaiting any new material developed by the Pedago team. It was, therefore, an easy decision to put my hand in my pocket and pay for the service* when the full version went live. It was that good!

Fast forward to earlier this year: I finally had that which I had been fixated on for so long: an offer from a top school! So what I did next took a lot of thought…

I turned my acceptance down!

The principle reason for this huge decision was simply the prohibitively inflated cost of studying for an MBA, with my projected expense easily looking to be in the region of $120,000 once the $90,000 of tuition was added to reasonable living expenses. Whilst it is no secret what the cost of an MBA is when students apply, such numbers seem unreal until such time that you are staring at a loan agreement. ROI uncertainty and the realities of staggering debt to pursue my dream aside, I had to really ask myself if there was another way to obtain the same level of top MBA knowledge without bankrupting myself. Smartly once again came onto the scene offering a full MBA degree, with its clear curriculum, simple and intuitive interface and impressive catalogue of ever-expanding content. Oh, and it’s significantly more attractive price tag! With my application submitted I now eagerly await their decision on whether I shall be one of those admitted to their new online MBA.

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Learning, Smartly, Students & Careers

Statistics is music to our ears

Here at Smartly, we’ve purposefully built a team of polymaths: our business knowledge and experience extend from corporate governance to market research to advanced statistics and beyond. Our educational backgrounds are equally broad: we’ve got a Ph.D. linguist and a Ph.D. mathematician cum classicist, a philosopher, a handful of historians, a quartet of computer science wizards—the list goes on. We even have a Ph.D. archeologist (Indiana Jones, anyone?).

So I guess it’s no surprise that our team’s other skills and interests also run the gamut: from marketing associate Karina’s expertise in fashion to co-founder Alexie’s mastery of Italian to content creator Ray’s homemade doll houses.

For Ellie and I (both members of the content team), our other skill is music: Ellie as a shredding bassist and gifted singer on the San Fran scene, and I as a Latin Grammy-nominated recording engineer and composer (hi, Mom!) based in LA.

Last week, we joined forces to give you this, The Correlation Song. Ellie, our top statistics author/editor, was so inspired by her love of stats that she wrote and sang this sweeping ode to correlation. I am honored to have simply helped bring the track to life. We hope you enjoy these warm—and educational!—vibes from the West Coast. And don’t hesitate to share this song with others: being social and being successful are strongly correlated.

P.S.—Make sure to check out our course Two-Variable Statistics, the inspiration for this dope cut.

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Learning, Students & Careers

An Interview with Michael Horn on the future of EdTech

stars in night sky

We are so excited to welcome Michael Horn, author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, and a force for positive and innovative change in the world of education, as an advisor for Pedago. We met with Michael a few weeks ago to talk about disruption in the EdTech space. Here’s what he had to say.

In your book, Blended, you explain how in-classroom learning can be melded with technology to create effective learning experiences; why do you think there was no one doing this until recently?

MH: Until just recently, education had been essentially the same since the printing press. There were the traditional teaching methods for the general populace, mixed with tutoring systems reserved for the elite and for those who had enough social capital.

Finally, disruptive technology—online learning—started to appear. When MOOCs arrived, people conceptualized the online learning movement as video tutorials—filmed, staged lessons. The disruptive innovation theory gave us a way to talk about this new movement more broadly, though, and see where it was going, which allowed us to realize that there, online learning represented a bigger moral opportunity and a chance to think about education in a truly novel way that could benefit all students. The theory gives us a framework to understand that we have the potential to use online learning to transform education in a massive way, beyond these filmed lessons, and create a personalized learning solution for every student at a cost we can afford.

What do you see in the near-term future for EdTech?

Video is just a small part of my vision for what the EdTech world has the potential to become. We need to move toward creating different modalities for different kinds of learning. Learning through games, virtual reality—these are great ideas, but they don’t work for every subject. We need solutions that can be customized based on the subject matter to facilitate active learning.

You talk a lot about disruption—how do you qualify disruption, and how do you see it playing out in the EdTech space?

One of the ways that we measure disruption is through asking the question: does your technology have a low-cost value proposition you can bring to market now, while still improving it over time to tackle more complex problems? There aren’t a ton of these on the market yet in the EdTech space.

Some might suggest that MOOCs are disruptive, but I would disagree. There’s a limit to the amount of dynamic education you can provide through MOOCs and video content because interaction between learners and educators is so limited.

Disruption starts by tackling simple problems, then moves up-market to tackle more difficult problems. That’s why there are so many companies tackling math right now—because it’s rules-based. It’s harder to address higher-end education. I’m excited to see what starts coming out of the EdTech space to tackle these harder concepts.

Last question—what’s one of your best learning experiences?

In all seriousness, my first time trying Smartly blew me away. But, if I have to choose something else, I’d have to say my class with Clayton Christensen at Harvard Business School because he combined theory lessons with real-life applications using case studies, so the learning was very concrete.

Want to hear more from Michael? Stay tuned to Smarty’s blog or find Michael Horn on Twitter (@michaelbhorn)! Visit Smartly at https://smart.ly.

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Careers, Smartly, Students & Careers

Pedago Seeking Content Authors and Editors

Pedago team photo

Pedago is on the hunt for dynamic writer-editors to join our content team. The ideal candidate for this position is adept at breaking down complex concepts into their fundamental parts and weaving them into clever, engaging educational lessons that are easily understood and digested for use in the real world. The best candidates will have significant experience (graduate degree or work experience preferred) in business. Experience in a startup or entrepreneurial environment is a plus!

Your work will consist of crafting and editing new content for learners, so a love for writing and an eye for details are must-haves for this position! If you believe traditional learning methods have significant room for improvement, then we should talk.

This is a full time position located in either our Washington, D.C. or Harrisonburg, VA offices.

Interested? We’d love to talk to you. Email us at jobs@pedago.com.

Interested in working for Pedago but looking for a part-time commitment? Contact us about other opportunities!

Pedago supports workplace diversity and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender identity/expression, national origin, age, military service eligibility, veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status, physical or mental disability, or any other protected class.

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Learning, Students & Careers

The Whole Foods Secret: A Longer Line with Shorter Wait Times

Long Line

Ask a random group of people about their pet peeves and you’re likely to hear at least one complaint related to waiting in line. No wonder: it can be boring and frustrating, and often seems unnecessary or unfair—think about the last time you waited longer at the supermarket than someone who arrived after you. Nevertheless, we spend quite a lot of time doing it; as much as a year or two of our lives, according to some estimates.

If you’re a business owner, you want to reduce the amount of time your patrons wait in line to a minimum. Like many businesses, you’re probably using a traditional multiple-line system, with several parallel lines that customers have to choose from. If these lines aren’t properly managed and involve a long and unpleasant wait, customers may renege on an intended purchase and even be discouraged from returning to your business. That could mean the loss of a lot of potential revenue.

So, what can you do? You can try a different line system, used by banks, post office branches, and some fast food restaurants: a single line that feeds into multiple cashiers. It’s also been adopted by major supermarket chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. What’s so great about this system?

A key advantage of having one line is that—despite the fact it is longer—the average wait time is often shorter. That’s because the single-line system doesn’t suffer from the inefficiencies that can plague multiple lines. In the multiple-line system, for example, customers may not notice that a checkout counter is open, leading to long delays. In addition, a single-line system seems fairer, since customers who arrive first are always served first.

Of course, there are also potential drawbacks to the single-line system. A single line, for instance, is wrongly perceived by customers as slower simply because it’s longer, which might deter some. And you need enough floor space for the long line you get with this system.

Not sure yet if you should use a single-line system? Figure out the actual wait times at your business before deciding, and learn about other ways to reduce wait times. This is just one small aspect of Smartly’s Operations Management Fundamentals course about how to make any business—large or small—run more efficiently.

To learn more about Operations Management Fundamentals and other ways to make your business more efficient, sign up here

 

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Careers, Learning, Smartly, Students & Careers

What’s it like to be a Smartly Content Developer?

Typewriter and laptop on desk

Image from a Macroeconomics lesson in Smartly on Economic Development in the World.

Smartly content developers come from all of over the world and have varying educational and professional backgrounds, but one thing unites them: they’re great at taking hard concepts and breaking them down in clever, humorous ways so that Smartly customers enjoy learning something new—fast!

Taylor, a top-notch Smartly content developer and PhD candidate at the University of Kansas with a background in Economics and Quantitative Analysis, describes his experience writing for Smartly. Find out why he thinks it’s important to learn macroeconomics for everyday life and what his absolute favorite thing he’s written for Smartly is!

1. What’s your name?

Taylor Drane

2. Where are you based?

Lawrence, Kansas

3. How and why did you start writing for Smartly?

I was referred to Smartly by a current writer.

4. What’s your professional and educational background?

I am currently in the PhD program at the University of Kansas where I also received my Masters in Economics. I completed my undergrad at Franklin College in Indiana where I received a Bachelors in Quantitative Analysis and a Bachelors in Economics. I have also completed two internships at Jabil Circuit where I worked for their treasury department and their business unit.

5. What are some of the courses and subjects that you’ve written about in Smartly?

I have written for the Macroeconomics courses; specifically international trade and fiscal policy.

6. Why do you think it’s important for students and business professionals to understand economics?

There are a multitude of reasons why economics is important. From a political perspective, it is usually the most important issue, especially in the past decade. If you turn on the news, you’ll likely hear about topics like the Federal Reserve, GDP, fiscal policy, exchange rates, etc. To have an informed opinion, one must understand how the economy works on both a micro and macro level. From an everyday perspective, economics is all around us. If you care about your education, your wages, your lifestyle, and your future, then you should care about economics.

7. What’s your favorite whimsical or snarky answer message you’ve written in Smartly?

First let me say that 99% of the humor and wit in the lessons I have written should entirely be credited to my editor, Tiffany Chen. She is far more creative than I am. Though it was not a message, there was an international trade lesson focusing on economic development in the world. We were using a fictional fruit world where all the nations were named after a fruit. Cherryland happened to enact some policies which enabled them to develop faster and they were able to “enjoy the fruits of their labor (pun fully intended)”.

8. What’s one of your favorite images used in Smartly?

Also in the economic development lesson, we used an image displaying two desks side by side. One side had a typewriter, feather pen, and a sheet of paper while the other side had a laptop, tablet, and a smartphone. The question was who would be more productive.

9. What do you admire about Smartly learners?

If someone uses Smartly it is because they have the desire to learn. While this may seem obvious, the desire to learn is a very powerful and admirable trait. There is a huge difference between having to learn something and wanting to learn something. The former will yield mediocre results but the latter will result in true knowledge.

10. What do you do to keep your learners in mind?

I try to tailor each lesson to match the perspective and needs of the learner. So from the beginning of the lesson-creating process until the end, I am always asking myself questions such as: Is this important for the needs of the person learning? Does this example seem plausible to them? Essentially I try to keep myself in the shoes of the learner at all times.

11. Anything else you’d like to mention?

I think that Smartly is not only filling an educational void, but is filling it with a quality model that is perfect for the learner in this day and age. Keeping in mind the goals and the environment of the learner has led to a learning platform that combines technology and pedagogy in a way that has not been done before.

For more on Smartly, visit https://smart.ly

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Careers, Smartly, Students & Careers

Five Simple Steps to Push Your Application to the Top

blue tiles spelling words

As you may have noticed on the Smartly blog, Pedago is currently on the hunt for motivated content developers and back-end engineers to help bring Smartly’s bite-sized, interactive courses to life. Part of my job is to review and prioritize the diverse writing samples and resumes submitted by our eager content developer applicants. In doing so, I’ve noticed that taking just a few simple steps can make a huge difference in getting your application to rise to the top when applying for a new job. While the items on this list may seem obvious, it’s never a bad idea to review the basics so you can focus on being the number one, standout applicant.

  • Proofread your resume. If your job requires “attention to detail,” make sure that’s reflected in your resume; you’ll stand out in a bad way if you misspell the word “meticulous” while listing it as one of your top five traits! What better way to impress your hiring manager (and give them a peek into your future work at the company) than to showcase a resume that is ship-shape and devoid of typos and grammar errors. This absolutely goes for personal websites and your LinkedIn profile as well—if you’ve provided links to an online resume or portfolio, make sure it represents your best work.
  • Read the job posting. Perhaps your future employer is looking for a cover letter; maybe they want you to apply via a special link, or they’ve provided specific instructions for a required skills test. Regardless of the instructions provided, it’s crucial that you demonstrate your interest in the position and ability to understand instructions by following them to a T. It’ll help you make a great first impression!
  • Do your research. Spend a little time on your potential employer’s website. Check out the current employees, do a little digging into the company mission, and try to figure out their main focus as a company. If you’re able to do so for a minimal cost, try out the company’s product! This should be done before you apply—how else will you be able to tell if you really want to apply?
  • Focus on what you bring to the position. Once you’ve taken the time to read the job posting and consider how your skills might be a great fit, and then tell us about it. You can focus on the compensation details once you have a job offer in hand. We know you’re looking for decent pay, fair vacation time, maybe flexible work arrangements, and more. But, you can leave those details until later, once you’ve determined that you’re a good match for the position itself.
  • Be polite, even if you don’t get the job. Employers often have a large pool of candidates for each job posting. You may never know whether you were the second choice or last in line for the position, but you can guarantee that your resume will never get a second chance if you reply to a rejection notice in a negative fashion. Keep it positive, and keep your chances of scoring a position on the next go-around!

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the things to keep in mind when applying, it’s a great place to start. What other tips would you add to the list? Happy hunting!

 

*photo credit: http://deathtothestockphoto.com

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