10 Things You Didn’t Know About Smartly Institute’s Online MBA Program

Let’s face it, earning an MBA can be a big ask. Sure, it can help advance your career and provide the leadership skills and professional network you need to get to the top of your field, but traditional MBA programs often require a two-year hiatus from your job and can include a $200k price tag. This is a tall order for many working professionals in the United States who are already suffocating under the weight of student debt. 

The financial aid debt clock shows a nationwide deficit of almost $1.7 trillion, and we are beginning to hear dire stories about the impacts of student debt on family formation, small business creation, home purchases, and retirement. And in Europe, markets across the EU have been clamoring for MBA grads since 2010 when education requirements were standardized in the Bologna Process. Embarking upon a two-years master’s degree program after earning a bachelor’s has become the “standard across the continent.”

The bottom line: More and more employers want you to earn a master’s degree, but doing so could have a sizable impact on your earnings, livelihood, and even your future family. 

This is where Smartly comes in.

Smartly Institute’s online MBA program was developed by leading academic and business minds and designed to accommodate working professionals. It is a fully online program so yes, it is flexible and convenient. But that is not what makes it unique. Check out the 10 things you didn’t know about Smartly Institute’s programs. 

Smartly Institute’s Technological Advantage

1. Executive leaders were key players at Rosetta Stone

Smartly Institute brings together the collective knowledge and experience of Rosetta Stone’s former CEO (Tom Adams) and executive leadership team, including Co-founders, Alexie Harper (Chief Academic Officer) and Ori Ratner (CTO), as well as VP of Admissions, Matt Schenck. If you have ever used Rosetta Stone, you know its interactive language-learning technology set the bar for usability and knowledge retention back in the early 2000s.  

What this means for students: Smartly’s leadership pedigree is unmatched in the educational tech space. It is an organization that understands wholeheartedly the tools that best allow students to learn, retain, and master educational material.

2. Active learning increases engagement and retention

Smartly has built a more efficient and engaging online teaching model. The company has witnessed the shortcomings of MOOC programs and the inefficacy of “video professor” lectures that so many traditional universities have used to increase their online presence.

In a recent independent study, Smartly learners outperformed their counterparts from Harvard, Duke, and Wharton in standardized tests covering accounting and finance. A second study comparing Smartly learners to those enrolled in popular MOOCs, Khan Academy and edX, reported Smartly students scoring significantly higher on statistics testing while spending 67 percent less time on the platform. 

How are these results possible? Smartly Institute designed its MBA programs around “active learning,” an approach that requires active participation (vs. passive) of the student, prompting them to engage with content every 8 seconds. Students are given immediate feedback based on their performance and the material is built on previously learned subject matter.

Active learning isn’t a new concept, in fact, it was pioneered by Maria Montessori in early childhood education, Maximillian Berlitz in immersion language learning, and Shinichi Suzuki in music study. Its benefits and efficacy have been exhaustively studied and are proven to be more effective than passive, lecture-based learning alone.

What this means for students: Smartly’s MBA program was created using pioneering learning methods and designed to keep students more engaged, learn subject matter faster, and retain material more efficiently. 

3. Mobile-first means access to cutting-edge material

Smartly Institute conceived and built its MBA and Executive MBA programs as mobile-first options from the outset to provide students with a better learning experience that was conducive to their busy schedules. Of course, it is convenient to be able to take classes via your mobile devices, but the mobile-first approach also provides an academic advantage.

Smartly Institute’s agile platform allows for rapid development of new, cutting-edge courses in innovative fields, while traditional MBA programs typically develop curriculum in emerging fields at a slower pace due to bureaucratic and logistical hurdles. This sluggishness to adapt is why some have argued that traditional schools are teaching skills more apt for 20th century businesses than today’s. On the other hand, Smartly Institute recently began developing a computer science degree program as well as courses on blockchain, cultural intelligence, and design thinking. What’s more? Graduates have lifetime access to all existing courses and new courses as they’re released.

What this means for students: Smartly’s mobile-first, tech-driven approach enables it to quickly adapt to offer courses in emerging fields so you are always at the forefront of today’s business and tech environment.   

Smartly Institute Accepts Only the Most Committed Learners 

4. Ultra-competitive admissions cultivates a powerful student and alumni network

Smartly Institute accepts only about 7 percent of applicants to its online MBA program. Its philosophy is to attract the best and brightest business minds and give them the tools they need to build a better world through intelligent and modern business practices.  

Many online educators have admissions policies that are designed to attract everyone and while they may be well intentioned, open or lax admissions policies ultimately hurt the students enrolling in the program, as evidenced by plummeting graduation rates and poor outcomes. Smartly Institute is built differently. Its aim is to provide students access to an ecosystem of the world’s leading professionals and cultivate an environment where students can connect, collaborate, and solve complex business problems. The goal is for each student feel part of a tight-knit community of learners who help motivate, challenge and learn from one another.

Smartly Institute counts among its students a former White House Fellow, roboticists for Tesla and Amazon, a tea magnate who donates revenue to indigenous farmers, and four students named to Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list.

What this means for students: Strict admissions standards ensure that students admitted to the program are deeply committed to their studies, capable of completing and excelling in the coursework, and can bring valuable contributions to their cohort.

5. Students can graduate in 12 months or less

Smartly’s degree programs are fully online and designed to give working professionals the skills and experience they need to achieve their goals and advance their careers. The free MBA is a 10 month program, while the Executive MBA is 12 months

The secret to Smartly’s reduced time to graduation is twofold: First, the active learning model makes coursework not only more enjoyable, but it’s more effective and faster than passively absorbing information via lecture. Thus, students learn more, quicker. Second, Smartly only accepts students that are truly driven and committed to deepening their skill set. 

What this means for students: Do not mistake a reduced time to completion for a pushover program. Smartly Institute’s MBA and Executive MBA are extremely competitive and students need to demonstrate they are committed to the coursework, comfortable with a rigorous academic program, and dedicated to achieving their goals. 

Smartly Institute Prioritizes Network Building & Job Placement

6. ‘Network First’ approach prioritizes collaboration with peers

Early on, the founders of Smartly Institute identified a glaring omission in how many online educators ran their programs. Unlike traditional, residential programs with deep, connected alumni groups, there was no network or peer interaction to speak of – students learned in isolation and graduated in a silo. Smartly is different, as it is a “network first” business school, which means, like traditional programs, Smartly students are provided myriad opportunities to interact with their peers and classmates, online and face-to-face. Frequent interaction and peer-to-peer learning among students is the norm, not the exception. And for the Executive MBA, a valuable addition to the curriculum comes in the form of weekend-long conferences filled with workshops, case studies, and opportunities to interact with leading business executives. 

Smartly Institute’s learning platform enables students to discuss course material, debate points of view, and collaborate on group projects in real-time or in staggered sessions. But its commitment to network building doesn’t end on the computer screen. 

In 2019, Smartly Institute hosted more than 60 regional events in 36 cities across the world, including San Francisco, London, Lagos, Perth, Taipei, Vienna, and Sydney. Moreover, it hosted weekend conferences in Dublin, Singapore, and Washington D.C.

Executive MBA students in attendance at the Singapore weekend conference.

What this means for students: If you thought Smartly would be another anonymous MOOC program that you can pop in and out of at your leisure, think again. You’ll be given opportunities to experience the world and interact with leading business professionals. But, you are responsible for your own success and will be held accountable by your cohort in group projects. 

7. The first online institution to tie its business model to job placement 

Most online educators spend very little time building hiring platforms or scaling career services because, frankly, low admissions standards tend to lead to high program abandonment and low graduation rates. Those online educators have little incentive for placing students because there is no revenue attached to those efforts. 

Smartly Institute has tied its business reputation and financial viability to strategically placing students in promising careers. Smartly Talent, its proprietary hiring engine, requires businesses to pay to recruit Smartly students. It is a structure that shifts tuition and the job-hunting burdens of cost, time, and stress from the student to the employer. 

Smartly Talent is also highly selective and requires employers to apply to access its network of students. Employers are only granted access to the platform if they can demonstrate the ability to provide high-quality placement opportunities for students and alumni.

What this means for students: Nobody is going to gift you an MBA at Smartly Institute but their success depends on your success. If you can commit to the curriculum and coursework, they will do everything they can to ensure you are prepared to take on new challenges in your current role, or help place you in a new career that is right for you.   

8. Active outplacement provides opportunities near and far 

Both employers and students have fully bought into the effectiveness of partnering via the Smartly Talent platform. Students are actively browsing job opportunities, communicating with employers, and frequently returning to find newly posted jobs.

While the network of employers continues to grow, more than 2,200 have applied for access to the Smartly Talent platform. And those that have been approved and are consistently posting jobs. Most employers are based in the U.S. but around 1,500 positions have been posted in 38 other countries, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands.

What this means for students: Earning an MBA is about learning the business principles that will help you become a leader in your field and allow you to take advantage of high-profile opportunities when they arise. Smartly’s talent platform is tailor-made to partner ambitious students with opportunities that will help them shine. 

Smartly Institute Offers Two Affordable Paths to an MBA

9. The Free MBA 

The free MBA is aimed at early-career professionals who show an aptitude for business leadership. Specifically, the program requires a bachelor’s degree, a minimum of two years of industry experience, and English language proficiency. This program values but does not require business experience.

Cost of tuition: Free

Time to completion: 10 months

10. Executive MBA

The Executive MBA is suited for experienced professionals with more than five years of industry experience who want to enhance their leadership skills. Students can specialize in management, entrepreneurship, or advanced business strategy. This program awards merit and need-based scholarships on a case-by-case basis and works with employers to provide tuition reimbursement to help off-set or cover the cost.   

Cost of tuition: $9,600

Time to completion: 12 months

What this means for students: Starting a new life or building a new career does not have to come with a mountain of new debt. If you are willing to work hard, stay focused, and take advantage of the programs available to you, a debt-free, top-tier MBA is within your reach. 

The Big Takeaway

If you’re among the tens of thousands of prospective MBA or Executive MBA students out there weighing your options and asking yourself if an online MBA is worth it, don’t worry, we get it. It’s a big decision and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

If you can afford to take two years off from work, add up to $200k (or more) to your debt load, and relocate to the city in which a top-notch residential program is located, you should do it, you won’t be alone. Thousands of other people make that same decision every year. 

But, if you’re not willing to take on that kind of shakeup in your life and still want a top-tier MBA, keep a few things in mind. Smartly Institute’s online MBA program is changing the landscape of higher education. Its curriculum is created by leading academic and business professionals and its teaching methods are rooted in a pedagogy that is proven to be more effective across cultures and throughout history. 

Earning a degree from the Smartly Institute also makes financial sense. Its partnership with employers subsidizes the cost of tuition for students and has built its business model around ensuring students find high-profile opportunities. 

Is an online MBA worth it? We think so. Set up an account to apply to one of our MBA programs or sample a few free courses.