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.

Smartly Alumni Network is Live!

Today, we’re proud to introduce Network, a new feature of the Smartly platform built to connect students and alumni around the world.

Today, we’re proud to introduce Network, a new feature of the Smartly platform built to connect Smartly students and alumni around the world. Network is exclusively available to current students and alumni of the Smartly MBA and Executive MBA programs, and we’ve made a special preview available to prospective students.

With Network, students can explore a global map of students and alumni, search by industry and interests, and contact peers safely and easily.

We created Network to enable students to forge real-world connections and discover inspiring peers in the Smartly community. Smartly students work in today’s most exciting industries and at top companies, giving them access to an impressive ecosystem of experienced professionals.

If you’re an aspiring Smartly student, you can sign up for a Smartly account at https://smart.ly and access a preview. We’re excited to hear your reactions to Network!

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

We want to prove to the world that education can be effective and successful when free and online.

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.

The Free MBA Has Landed

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

 

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!

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business adopts Smartly

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business adopts Smartly to teach all incoming MBA students business fundamentals.

Today, we’re proud to announce that Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business adopts Smartly, a new mobile learning platform, to teach all incoming MBA students fundamentals of Accounting, Statistics, Economics and Finance

Washington, D.C.: Pedago, a new innovative mobile learning solutions provider to educational institutions, companies and individuals, announced today that its flagship platform Smartly has been adopted by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business to teach key subjects, including Accounting, Statistics, Economics and Finance, to the incoming MBA Class of 2018 before students even arrive on the Georgetown campus.

McDonough selected Smartly after extensive evaluation by faculty and existing students. McDonough recruits outstanding students from around the world, regardless of whether they have studied business as undergraduates. Selected preparation courses are designed to allow McDonough to provide the proper foundation for all of students so they hit the ground running when they begin their opening term with Structure of Global Industries and Financial Reporting Fundamentals courses.

“Smartly is a next-generation approach to online and mobile learning,” Prashant Malaviya, Senior Associate Dean, MBA Programs at McDonough, said, “and we are delighted to be able to offer our foundational courses to incoming students in this format.”

Students will be able to access Smartly’s MBA Preparation Program through a McDonough-branded web-portal and mobile app that provide access to a curated list of six courses that prime students in key areas needed to succeed in the internationally recognized MBA program. Faculty receive access to an extensive reporting tool that allows them to track student progress and better identify patterns associated with the class as a whole.

“We’re excited to have this new relationship with Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. The business school is known for its excellent faculty and smart students, and it’s a validation for Smartly,” said Pedago co-founder Tom Adams. “And as we’re also based in D.C., we’re hoping this evolves into a broad partnership.”

About Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business
Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, the premier destination for global business education, provides a transformational education through classroom and experiential learning, preparing students to graduate as principled leaders in the service to business and society. Through numerous centers, initiatives, and partnerships, Georgetown McDonough seeks to create a meaningful impact on business practice through both research and teaching. All academic programs prepare students to be “global ready” by providing a global perspective, woven through the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in a way that is unique to Washington, D.C. – the nexus of world business and policy – and to Georgetown University’s connections to global partner organizations and a worldwide alumni network. Founded in 1957, Georgetown McDonough is home to some 1,400 undergraduates, 1,000 MBA students, and 1,200 participants in executive degree or custom programs. Learn more at http://msb.georgetown.edu. Follow McDonough on Twitter: @msbgu.

About Pedago LLC and its platform Smartly
Pedago revolutionizes online education with interactive courses and lessons that make learning effective and fast. Co-founded by Tom Adams, Alexie Harper, and Ori Ratner in 2013, Pedago is on a mission to reinvent online and mobile learning. Inspired by a desire to bring Active Learning practices to an educational technology sector dominated by passive video lectures, Pedago makes learning dramatically faster and more effective with highly interactive lessons available on any device. Pedago is based in Washington, D.C. Pedago’s first platform is Smartly, a learning platform that is transforming business education. Developed in partnership with experts from leading business schools, Smartly offers a broad range of carefully-crafted business courses, designed to make learning fast, convenient, and effective.

*Image courtesy of Georgetown University McDonough School of Business

Making Smartly Available for Everyone

First and foremost, we want to uphold our mission to expand access to low-cost education. Not just “education” but superior education.

 

Since Smartly’s launch in the summer of 2015, we’ve helped thousands of people around the world bolster their business knowhow, quickly and easily.  In total, our learners have solved 960,000 lesson challenges, taken 62,000 lessons, and given Smartly lessons an overall 96% approval rating! Across the board—from the incoming MBA student in Fontainebleau to the junior analyst in San Francisco to the stay-at-home parent in Bangalore—our students have let us know that they love Smartly’s fast technology; fun, quality courses; and quirky tone to help them get closer to their goals.

That’s why we’re happy to announce that over the past few weeks Smartly has phased out our subscription services—we’re now completely free. We’ve come to the conclusion that first and foremost, we want to uphold our mission to expand access to low-cost education. Not just “education” but superior education. We’ve broken the mold in edtech by creating bite-sized, interactive courses and will continue to revolutionize by making quality education available for free. We want to be completely different in a good way (you could say we’re pretty hipster). In addition, many of our users around the world don’t have debit or credit card numbers, and we want as many people as possible to have the chance to learn effectively.

Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep Smartly running without subscription fees. We have an exciting solution in store that will help you reach your career goals even faster than through coursework alone—we’re currently exploring ways that companies that you dream of working with can connect with you.

If you’ve enjoyed using Smartly thus far, please recommend the new Smartly to someone who you think would find it useful. If you haven’t tried Smartly yet… try it! Start learning how to be a better manager, how to run A/B tests, how your company’s accounting works, and more in the next 60 seconds. We hope you enjoy the changes to Smartly, and we look forward to your feedback. Come and join the education revolution!

— Tom, Alexie, Ori & the rest of the Smartly team

An Interview with Michael Horn on the future of EdTech

Michael Horn, author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools talks about disruption in the EdTech space.

We are so excited to welcome Michael Horn, author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, and a force for positive and innovative change in the world of education, as an advisor for Pedago. We met with Michael a few weeks ago to talk about disruption in the EdTech space. Here’s what he had to say.

In your book, Blended, you explain how in-classroom learning can be melded with technology to create effective learning experiences; why do you think there was no one doing this until recently?

MH: Until just recently, education had been essentially the same since the printing press. There were the traditional teaching methods for the general populace, mixed with tutoring systems reserved for the elite and for those who had enough social capital.

Finally, disruptive technology—online learning—started to appear. When MOOCs arrived, people conceptualized the online learning movement as video tutorials—filmed, staged lessons. The disruptive innovation theory gave us a way to talk about this new movement more broadly, though, and see where it was going, which allowed us to realize that there, online learning represented a bigger moral opportunity and a chance to think about education in a truly novel way that could benefit all students. The theory gives us a framework to understand that we have the potential to use online learning to transform education in a massive way, beyond these filmed lessons, and create a personalized learning solution for every student at a cost we can afford.

What do you see in the near-term future for EdTech?

Video is just a small part of my vision for what the EdTech world has the potential to become. We need to move toward creating different modalities for different kinds of learning. Learning through games, virtual reality—these are great ideas, but they don’t work for every subject. We need solutions that can be customized based on the subject matter to facilitate active learning.

You talk a lot about disruption—how do you qualify disruption, and how do you see it playing out in the EdTech space?

One of the ways that we measure disruption is through asking the question: does your technology have a low-cost value proposition you can bring to market now, while still improving it over time to tackle more complex problems? There aren’t a ton of these on the market yet in the EdTech space.

Some might suggest that MOOCs are disruptive, but I would disagree. There’s a limit to the amount of dynamic education you can provide through MOOCs and video content because interaction between learners and educators is so limited.

Disruption starts by tackling simple problems, then moves up-market to tackle more difficult problems. That’s why there are so many companies tackling math right now—because it’s rules-based. It’s harder to address higher-end education. I’m excited to see what starts coming out of the EdTech space to tackle these harder concepts.

Last question—what’s one of your best learning experiences?

In all seriousness, my first time trying Smartly blew me away. But, if I have to choose something else, I’d have to say my class with Clayton Christensen at Harvard Business School because he combined theory lessons with real-life applications using case studies, so the learning was very concrete.

Want to hear more from Michael? Stay tuned to Smarty’s blog or find Michael Horn on Twitter (@michaelbhorn)! Visit Smartly at https://smart.ly.