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Smart.ly: pocket-sized MBA divides opinion

Smart.ly: pocket-sized MBA divides opinion

What is the real value of an MBA? The skills developed, or the prestige of the issuing institution? For those seeking to add an MBA to their resume, their answer to that question will make the difference between spending thousands of dollars and spending no dollars at all.

Smartly offers an MBA course via its mobile app, and it’s free. Ivy Leaguers will probably laugh at that, until they realise that Smartly’s materials are developed by Ivy League professors and are pretty much the same as they are studying on their super-selective and super-expensive MBA courses.

There is some debate about the value of Smartly’s free MBA, with plenty of opinions for and against. To illustrate the contrasting views, we have harvested a few from the web and will present them here unprocessed because they speak for themselves.

From Quora:

“As a learning platform, Smartly is good. In fact, it's great. The interactive learning method used is actually quite powerful. I didn't really care about that when I first signed up, but having taken plenty of courses on MOOCs, Smartly is definitely pioneering a unique EdTech platform that I think is much better than anything I've seen before.”

“This is a young person with no career experience’s dream. Being a mid-level professional who’s been in the workforce for 25 years, I can tell you that an “MBA from Smartly Institute” isn’t going to be worth the paper it’s signed on to any employer or HR department.

The degree program is not even accredited. Nor is it affiliated or offered through any university. In other words, you can’t even say, “I got an MBA from _________” University or College” when you complete it. Think about how that’s going to play during your job interview with the chief so-and-so. Only someone naive enough to think employers only care about the actual curriculum would try to pass this off as something of value for career advancement.”

From Reddit:

“I am a graduate of the program. It's legit, albeit a self-granting entity. The material and product features content as rigorous as any you'll find in a traditional MBA, but until accredited, it's an uphill battle to gain recognition. The name is also a tad bit challenging as it sounds more like a novelty shop than one focused on pedagogy.”

“Seems like a selective MOOC and probably worth the same as a MOOC. It's not even accredited. You may learn a few things, but I highly doubt it'll help you with any form of career change.”

“Given the way that our generation uses the internet and the quality of the students in the program, I feel like you should be able to expand your network through this program.”

How does Smartly provide a free MBA program? By charging recruitment fees to employers, who it says are keen to snap up their graduates. Job placement is integral to Smartly’s offering.

Why should employers be interested in Smartly MBA graduates? Because the program is highly selective, with an acceptance rate under 7% and an average GMAT score of over 700, making it more selective than Harvard and Stanford. Furthermore, many applicants already have impressive careers behind them, coming from places like Morgan Stanley, KPMG, McKinsey and Google.

So quality and motivation of graduates is no problem. It’s just that Smartly’s MBA isn’t accredited yet. And so round goes the argument again (to be fair, accreditation takes years.)

Some believe this is the future of higher education, and some believe it’s just a clever bit of marketing (Smartly was founded by the same team who founded language teaching company Rosetta Stone.) The Smartly MBA is a course for the kind of person who picks up something like an MBA the same way they pick up bananas and milk on their way home from work – and to have that approach to learning you need to be brilliant, driven - and highly employable.