New York Times, April 1, B1
MBA students pay high fees, leave the job market for two years and lose income and face the stress of getting a job when they’re done. Why?
The value added from an MBA must be high. Where does it come from? The teaching, the professors, the exams and grades. All that value has to be substantial. But undoubtedly, another huge part of the value comes from meeting other like-minded, smart, beautiful, go-getting people.
But the value of networking can be generated without a bricks-and-mortals B School. At least this is the bet taken by a budding education entrepreneur, Anton Napolitanokich, based in Moscow.
“Leading B Schools in the US and Europe are not going to risk their reputation by going digital,” said Napolitanokich. “And nor are great students in those regions going to give up the brand reputation that a HBS degree gives you to do something risky. But here in Moscow, there is little competition and a more amenable market. The Virtual MBA is the future of business education”
Napolitanokich’s business model is based on social networking websites like Facebook and as well pure, old-fashioned “networking” in nightclubs! “MBA students are in constant wireless contact already. All they need is someone to screen the group they interact with. That’s the key to what the traditional bricks and mortar B Schools do and we will replicate that. Of course we are total unknowns right now. So, we will do an excellent job letting in great students in our first round. We will let them in for free to prime the pump. If it works out, everyone will want to interact with our star students. In the next rounds, we will auction off entry into this select group It is kind of like a nightclub: you let in the good-looking people for free and then wait for everyone else to line up to get in. Of course, we can’t let in everyone – we have to maintain a high quality pool. So, we’ll restrict the number of spots and let the bidding takeoff! If it works, the price will be even higher than a traditional MBA! Go to www.virtualmba.com and apply for admission right away! It’s the future – even Sergey Brin is interested in the idea. He’s from Moscow you know. Brin ses we are the new Amazon and they are the old Barnes and Noble”
But what will the students actually be doing? Napolitanokich envisages that students will play interactive business games. The point of the games is more to get the students to get to know each other, establish networks and friendships. In a business coup, Napolitanokich has partnered with Disney to produce interactive business games. Disney’s Club Penguin website has been a huge hit with the elementary school set. Kids get to choose an avatar in penguin form to play interactive video games and hang out with other avatar penguins in chat rooms. Napolitanokich envisages a similar scenario for the b school games. Preppy J Crew wearing MBA avatars will engage in strategic competition, negotiation and marketing and have time to relax in virtual bars and restaurants. Disney finds the model every promising and hopes to create connecting sites all the way from Club Penguin up the age ladder to Virtual MBA, training budding entrepreneurs in high school.
Of course, only so much can be achieved by networking remotely. Actual face-to-face communication is vital too. Napolitanokich envisages intense live-in weeks where flocks of virtual MBAs fly in to isolated resort locations for intense interactive teaching sessions. So, some professors are inescapable he admits. But they will be a new breed of hyper-profs, flying in and out for short trips, living everywhere and nowhere. Ciphers who facilitate and coordinate student-student interaction but otherwise get out of the way. The still young century welcomes a new model for education.
Hope it does not work out for Anton, otherwise I’m out of a job!