Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Using online video to preview MBA programs

Last week, I watched an Utada Hikaru concert that was streamed live on Ustream. Although I haven’t seen any official statements, supposedly it broke multiple Ustream viewership records. At one point, the concert was streaming to 100,000 viewers concurrently, and as I watched, I was pleasantly surprised with both the stability (only had 1 brief interruption) and the quality (video and sound).

After the show (and another 4 hours of sleep), I started thinking about how streaming video could be put to use by MBA programs.  In particular, I think it could be a pretty useful way to expose applicants to the program earlier on in the admissions process.

Right now, applicants have a couple of options for gaining first-hand experience with different business schools before ultimately deciding on one. They can either schedule an on-campus visit or else, if accepted, attend the admit weekend.

The admit weekends normally happen at the end of the process, where they have less time to impress upon applicants. I think you want to expose applicants to the program sooner than later so that if they get that “fit” sensation, they’ll have time to build reinforcing mechanisms to support the decision that school X is the right place for them. Berkeley-Haas has partially addressed this by inviting all applicants selected to interview to a weekend event on campus where they do the interview and go through an abridged admit-type weekend to learn about the school first-hand. Having been to it, I can say it's pretty neat.

More importantly, not everyone can travel to the campus for a visit or the admit weekend. That forces them to decide on a school without having one of the most critical pieces of information (culture/fit), especially for peer programs that look very similar on paper.

In response to both issues, schools could hold an annual “E-week” early on in the application process that allows applicants to watch and participate in several events online via streaming video.  In Kellogg’s case, it could be held concurrently with CIM week. I would aim for at least 5 events throughout the week, held at different times to allow for the different time zones around the world:

1.     A presentation and Q&A about the “State of the School” (preferably by the dean)
2.     A Q&A between 2nd-year students and incoming students and online applicants
3.     3 full 1-hour classes. In Kellogg’s case, they could ask alums and current students to vote on the 3 most popular topics culled from Kellogg Insight to be turned into 3 online classes taught by Kellogg profs. And to capture the “feel” of class, you’d have to have students sitting in on all of the streamed classes. Kellogg currently has a small set of abridged classes online.

In addition to streaming these in real time, the school could also make the classes available in a video library, which could easily become a valuable resource for alums.

Not only would this allow more applicants to get a first-hand peek at the program early on in the process, but it would also provide another mechanism for the school to contribute more original content to the ongoing discussion on business, marketing, management, leadership, etc.

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