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Smartly MBA Student Spotlight: Adrian De Smul

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In the last few weeks before Smartly graduates its pioneer MBA class, we wanted to feature some of our outstanding students. Current Smartly student Adrian De Smul, who works at McKinsey and graduated from Princeton, tells us about his decision to join Smartly and plans for the future in the interview below. Browse, connect, and hire candidates like Adrian on the Smartly Talent Network.

Tell us about yourself.
I did my undergrad at Princeton in Mechanical Engineering and did a year abroad at Oxford. I ended up doing a lot of Computer Science. Most of my summers, I found more CS oriented gigs and enjoyed that a lot more so ended up doing a summer internship at McKinsey Digital as a full-stack developer. I joined full-time after I graduated and have been in the digital unit every since. I started off doing some front-end development but ended up switching over to a group that helps clients build agile teams to deliver software more effectively. I’ve learned not only how to deliver software differently but also how to put clients at the center of everything that you do.

What inspired you to do the Smartly MBA?
I thought it was a good change to strengthen my broader range of business skills. Especially, when you look at things like A/B testing and optimization and seeing how to get more statistical rigor in some of these user tests.Being more comfortable reading a balance sheet is not something I have to do very often but it’s nice to have that tool in my toolkit.

What have you enjoyed about Smartly?
The fact that you can do it at your own pace, I love. The fact that it works on your phone – it works everywhere. Each of the lessons is just fun – they never really feel like a chore (with the exception of the Accounting ones, which I’m hiding from). It’s easy and online – that’s what keeps me coming back. I also like the bit of gamification – it’s all broken down into very manageable submodules. You can get through a lesson in a few minutes and feel like it’s just done. You don’t have to get through a huge assignment or anything like that.

How has the Smartly coursework affected your day-to-day?
Right now, I’m working on something related to digital culture. We have a bunch of survey results that came back, and I’m able to look at them with a more critical and statistical eye. we have data based by industry, segmented in all these different ways, and there’s interesting statistical work that you can do when you have that much data. I think being able to look for survey results in a little bit deeper way is something I found interesting. The Marketing courses have also been interesting in the sense that I haven’t really gotten to use it for work yet, but it’s something that is very applicable and is not totally intuitive. The way that you can structure pricing, especially around sales and different marketing opportunities, we kind of skirt around those topics in conversation, but it’s nice to have the vocabulary to be able to talk more authoritatively about the marketing side of things.

What industries most interest you?
Part of the reason I did the Smartly MBA is that I really love EdTech. I wanted to see how Smartly was changing EdTech. That’s definitely one area. I’ve done a lot of work with McKinsey in banking and finance, so I think there’s still some cool ways of getting involved in FinTech that would be a lot of fun and would leverage my skill set really well.

What makes you a great job candidate?
For me, the experience that I’ve had in the past. And the Smartly MBA is yet another different thing that I’ve gotten the opportunity to do. I’ve gotten to work on four continents with a huge variety of teams, clients, and industries. I’ve done work ranging from product ownership to agile coaching to DevOps engineering for an engineering transformation, so it’s been a variety of skill sets, but all-around digital application development and building a great digital team.

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Would you like to find more candidates like Adrian? Sign up for the Smartly Talent Network to browse and connect with top talent for free.

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Careers, Students & Careers

Smartly MBA Student Spotlight: Lindsey Allard

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Are you looking to hire MBA candidates like Lindsey? See them all by signing up here.

In the last few weeks before Smartly graduates its pioneer MBA class, we wanted to feature some of our outstanding students. Last week, we sat down with digital marketing maven and lacrosse aficionado Lindsey Allard to learn more about the MBA experience and what’s in store for her post-Smartly.

Tell us about yourself.
I’m originally from the Boston area but was born in Paris. I went to Dartmouth College – majored in Psychology and minored in English. For four years, I played D1 lacrosse. My grandfather also started a lacrosse apparel company, so it’s been a pretty big part of our life. Then, I worked at Madison Square Garden in sales. After about a year and a half, I moved to a marketing position. Now, I’m currently working at a startup – Coffee Digital. We are a new digital innovation agency. It’s all-hands-on-deck all the time – a very great experience.

How has the Smartly MBA been for you?
I really, really love it. I heard about it through an Instagram ad while considering getting my MBA. My dad went to HBS, and he actually recommended not getting an MBA because he thought I could get a lot of good experience from work. However, I’m from a liberal arts background. In terms of relevant business knowledge, I didn’t have much except for the internships that I had done. I really wanted to make sure that I’m learning content as well, so Smartly was a great option.

How has Smartly influenced your work at Coffee Digital?
It’s helped me get a really good perspective on a lot of different business areas – specifically, business strategy. We’ve engaged in a lot of positioning conversations that the courses have helped me in. I was also able to immediately apply digital marketing keywords in email chains that I was on. It was awesome!

What are you hoping to get out of the Career Network?
I’d love to connect with people in startups and the innovation space and learn more about what they do. I think the Smartly Career Network will be better than other ones I’ve used before – Hired, Planted – because it works in tandem with the education as well. With other platforms, there was a disconnect with what I was looking for what they were providing in terms of opportunities.

What makes you a great job candidate?
I’m a really quick learner. I can assimilate and understand things really quickly. That’s why I’ve been able to do well at my current role. At a startup, we don’t have time to sit down and teach someone how to do something. Learning quickly and problem solving make me a really good candidate.

Are you looking to hire MBA candidates like Lindsey? See them all by signing up here.

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Companies & Universities, Learning

Improving Learning Outcomes: The Power of Active Learning

Tired woman in front of computer

What is Active Learning?

When it comes to retaining new information, which methodology is best for learners: Active Learning or Passive Learning? –Remember those classes in high school when your teacher stood in front of the class and for an hour just talked at you while everyone furiously took notes that they would later memorize? That’s Passive Learning. Active Learning, on the other hand, requires students to interact and do meaningful tasks while thinking about what they are doing.

Unlike passive learners, active learners are more engaged, learn the material in less time, and learn more effectively.

Active Learning Engages Students More

Being engaged during the learning process is arguably one of the most important conditions for retaining information. When learning passively via media such as lectures or lengthy videos, the potential for the student’s mind to wander is high and only increases as time passes. But when students are learning actively, they are constantly engaged with the material–manipulating objects, answering questions, and getting immediate feedback. For example, Smartly learners are required to interact with the material an average of every 8.7 seconds. This high level of engagement is extremely effective, and one of the reasons why Smartly’s approval rating is consistently above 96%.

information-retained-triangle

Active Learning is Faster

Because interaction is required when learning actively, time spent not listening, zoning out, or generally being distracted is reduced. Additionally, students experiencing Active Learning spend more time “learning by doing” and require less repetition in order to perform operations or demonstrate knowhow. These benefits mean that learning happens faster, and more time can be devoted to additional study or other productive efforts.

Greater Efficacy with Active Learning

When the desired learning outcome is for the student to retain the maximum amount of information taught and apply it in class, the workplace, or life, Active Learning proves to be much more effective than Passive Learning. In a study performed by Ruhl et al., researchers found that Active Learning was in fact more effective in terms of both short-term and long-term retention. In the short-term, students who learned actively were able to recall 35% more facts that those who learned passively. And, Active Learners on average performed 11% better than their Passive Learning counterparts when given a multiple choice test later in the learning process. [1]

When we consider that learning actively creates an educational environment that is more engaging, faster, and more effective than Passive Learning, it is clear that Active Learning is the better choice.

Sources:

[1] Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research
http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Papers/Prince_AL.pdf

[2] Active versus passive teaching styles: An empirical study of student learning outcomes
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.505.71&rep=rep1&type=pdf

[3] Everyday attention and lecture retention: the effects of time, fidgeting, and mind wandering
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3776418/

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Companies & Universities, Smartly, Students & Careers

The Smartly Master Plan: Elite to Open, and Everything in Between

Satellite mission in space from the top looking down to earth

Smartly has the overarching mission to innovate in education, and in that spirit we recently launched a free online MBA degree. From time to time, people ask us: “Why are you starting with an ‘elite’ degree? Why be selective when you could open up the opportunity to those who have difficulty accessing education?” We do strongly believe in democratizing education, and this is a question we’ve thought about deeply.

We just can’t help but borrow a page from Elon Musk and Tesla here. Musk spelled out the playbook of starting with the powerful Roadster sports car to show the world that electric cars could actually rival high-end gasoline cars, and then scaling the business, working his way down the marginal cost curve and building more and more affordable cars.

We were inspired by the idea of proving a disruptive approach at the top and working step-by-step to spread the benefits to everyone. We want to prove to the world that education can be effective and successful when free and online. In that spirit, the MBA is our flagship program to demonstrate the power of Smartly to rival some of the best educational institutions in the world. We restricted the first cohort of our MBA program to students similar to those one would find at top brick & mortar programs to show parity in student outcomes. Keep in mind that we are doing this while offering the MBA for free! We are proving the disruptive power of Smartly at the top, all the while adding programs for more and more audiences, including programs that are open as well as free.

While our pedagogical plan is to branch deeper and deeper into additional degrees, certifications, and courses, we’re also going to continue innovating how education is funded. We are soon launching a hiring engine that pushes the cost of education to the companies hiring newly-skilled graduates. Beginning with our MBA students, companies can browse and hire top business talent, and the recruiting fees these companies pay fund the MBA program. Our interests are aligned with those of our graduates: we are only paid when they are achieving successful outcomes, and not with an upfront tuition. This benefits all parties: the student, the employers, and the government guaranteeing these loans (just maybe not the banks). As we add additional programs, we will continue to innovate different models of funding education with the belief that it can be free, open, and online. Smartly is not just another online university, but a whole new approach to education.

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Companies & Universities, Students & Careers

From cave walls to computers: a brief history of learning

Old picture of filming of students watching someone teach

Since the mass adoption of formal education in schools across society, understanding around items such as class size, curriculum development, and teaching tools have advanced significantly, but the format in which content is delivered to students has barely evolved for thousands of years. The lecture-based approach to education has spread across civilizations, continents, and cultures. Let’s take a trip back in time and I’ll show you how we arrived where we are now.

Forty thousand years ago, carvings of rock walls were used as a vehicle for teaching, however it is not until 3100BC that with the rise of trade, government, and religion came the invention of writing, which brought both schooling and education as we know them today to the Egyptian and Babylonian civilizations. A few hundred years later, Plato founded The Academy in Athens, where the Socratic method dominated teaching. This method involved argumentative dialogue between individuals and was led by a teacher who was trusted with the responsibilities of guiding the conversation and instructing students about new concepts.

Fast forward into the Middle ages: monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church were the centers of education and professors were master lecturers. This eduction style permeated through subsequent ages and was slowly combined with different mechanisms and tools; in colonial times, students had to recite what the teacher preached aided by a Horn-Book (a wooden flat board with parchment on top that laid out a lesson). A few hundred years later, the Magic Lantern, one of the first projectors, was created and then two decades later, our beloved chalkboard!

Now let’s stop and think, what do all these lecture methods have in common? They’re boring! Have you ever been on the verge of falling asleep during a class? That’s because most lessons you’ve taken have probably been lecture-based where you’ve sat and listened passively to a teacher “preaching.” You’ve probably interacted through some sort of Socratic discussion, performed some rote-memorization, or have energetically taken notes of what a professor is writing. However, there seems to be a persistent problem, one that technology hasn’t managed to solve in centuries: lectures still predominate the way we learn.

One aspect of education that technology has revolutionized is the expansion of education beyond the elite few and to the masses. With commercial radio broadcasting in the 1920s also came on-air radio education, then television for education in the 1950s and videotapes in the 1970s. Finally, with the advent of the Internet, online education took off and by 2008, web technology was being used to create the first Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which taught learners through videos.

So if you think about it, the format of learning has not really changed, students still sit and watch or listen to a lecture, and still fall asleep, not actually learning as much as they possibly could. And let’s not even mention the lack of individualized attention that a pupil might need to actually improve through instant feedback. What if we combine both technology that allows for open access of quality education and change passive learning into active learning that is self-paced, adaptive, and provides instant feedback? That would be the real revolution! And that’s what we are doing here at Smartly.

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Careers, Company, Students & Careers

The Free MBA Has Landed

Astronauts landing on the moon overlooking The Earth

We’re excited to announce that Smartly’s groundbreaking free MBA program will open its doors to our first student cohort this week!

From the moment MBA applications opened earlier this year, we were overwhelmed by the positive response. Of the thousands of students who applied, we were only able to accept 7% to our first class. We plan to accept students to additional cohorts later this year. 

Our students hail from top undergraduate and graduate schools, drawing from diverse backgrounds spanning engineering and finance to humanities and the performing arts. Many have careers in business-oriented fields like consulting and banking, while others are entrepreneurs, lawyers, and even veterinarians. We have roboticists from Tesla and Amazon (the company), the founder of a tea company that gives revenue back to indigenous farmers in the Amazon (the jungle), and even a student who has beaten cancer twice!

The Smartly MBA is composed of 42 core courses equivalent to the subjects taught in a traditional MBA degree. Courses are organized into 9 concentrations, including Business Foundations, Accounting, Finance, Data & Decisions, Markets & Economies, Marketing & Pricing, Strategy & Innovation, Leadership & Management, and Supply Chain & Operations Management, with optional electives for further study.

Students who finish the program will receive an MBA licensed through the Washington, DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education. When they graduate, students will be matched with employers around the US, opening up job opportunities that make use of their newly-minted skills. 

We’re passionate about expanding access to impactful education here at Smartly, and we believe that a free, high-quality MBA is an important step in this journey. Thanks to all of our learners who have supported and inspired us in this endeavor. We can’t wait to show you what’s next!

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