Years ago, I was goaded into pursuing my MBA by a co-worker. In a summarized version of his work-life plan, he did not was to be slinging code the rest of his life. The MBA was a stepping stone to the ‘next-level’ of one’s career. I didn’t put much thought into this until I was moved into a management position and realized how much I didn’t know. So, I followed his advice and signed up for the OLLU MBA program that was taught through an extension college in Dallas, Texas.

Over the next few years, I spent every Saturday in a physical classroom until I earned my degree. It was by far the best choice I have had ever made. I met folks from all walks of life, every age, and in just about every profession you can think of. I have highly encouraged co-workers and friends that the MBA can be an asset in all aspects of any type of work.

Three years ago, I decided to pursue my master’s in computer science. I signed up for the Online Master in CS from Georgia Tech. While the education and structure were not like anything like a traditional brick and mortar school – it was easy for me to adapt to. The primary reason, in my opinion, was that the material in CS in more quantitative while my MBA was more qualitative. This could be argued but that’s for a different article.  

Two years ago, my wife decided to pursue her MBA and signed up for the SOSU Online MBA program. To her excitement, she graduated last month! While I couldn’t compare my MBA to my MS in CS because of the different discipline – I was able to relate and collate the differences I seen in her Online MBA vs my traditional MBA.

It’s understandable that content and methodologies taught will change and evolve over time. I’m in the IT field – believe me I understand this more than most. While some things that her program went over was vastly different than mine, I could not say if that was right or wrong.

Every program is bound to have differences.

What I did witness was the complete virtual desensitization to actual soft people skills.

Let me elaborate.

One of the most powerful classes I had was taught by a professor who intentionally put the class in conflict every session. Our class contained all races, religions, and sexes. In class we would do a lot of role playing as managers, employees, etc. An example of one typical session would have a manager (student) who had a choice to terminate one of two employees. One employee was played by an older student while the other employee was played by a different race of student. While initial session was scripted, how the manager approached it and how the employees reacted were not.

What I learned from this class was invaluable set of soft personal skills. Everything from how to read body language, facial cues, voice inflection, and how to tell when some is getting to the point where emotions take over logic. That’s it ok to stop a meeting and restart when things get out of control. While this class dealt a lot with employee conflict in person – the Online MBA didn’t cover this at all. In fairness, that’s not 100% true. It did cover some material sorta-kind-of-related to this in class books and online articles. But is that same? No.

Asking a student to respond to a forum post over a hypothetical topic that might deal with racism is nowhere near as comparable as to looking in the face of actual person and discussing the same topic.

In my personal opinion, the online MBA is still worth it’s money. However, if you want to truly be an exceptional manger, leader, super, etc. then you will have to think outside the box and put yourself in a situation, class, or mentoring program where you can develop your soft skills.

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