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10 Online Courses To Try Before Your MBA

Online courses have sky-rocketed in popularity in recent years, particularly with increasing moves to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic

Dubbed the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), MOOC sites like edX and Coursera are a people’s platform for free and affordable education. Courses cover an array of subjects—from music theory to data analytics—and are provided by some of the most esteemed faculty on top MBA programs around the globe.

While some people challenge the efficacy of MOOCs, many schools agree that any degree of training to prepare students for the rigorous life of an MBA is worthwhile. Not only can a course sharpen a student’s skillset, it can also give a dull resume a boost. 

Here are 10 online courses that prospective MBA students should consider before going to business school:


10 Online Courses To Try Before Your MBA


1. Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies, Harvard University


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©Lyndon Stratford


Platform: edX

Length: 6 weeks (3 - 5 hours a week)

Cost: Free + $125 for verified certificate

Led by Harvard Business School professor Tarun Khanna, this 6-week course focuses on individual agency in a fast-growing economy of emerging markets. The course description outlines Tarun’s ‘interdisciplinary approach to understanding and solving complex social problems.’ 

Students will learn how to find opportunities in fast-growing markets, evaluate those opportunities, and gain a greater understating of commonplace problems and their entrepreneurial solutions.


2. Behavioral Economics in Action, University of Toronto


Platform: edX

Length: 6 weeks (4 - 5 hours a week)

Cost: Free + $140 for verified certificate

This hands-on course begins with an overview of the principles underlying decision-making. Guest lecturers from Harvard, the University of Colorado, and National Public Radio (NPR) weigh in on debates surrounding behavioral economics, as well as experimental design and analysis. For students interested in learning more about the ‘nudging approach’ and other progressive methods of behavioral change, this is the course for you!


3. Corporate Social Responsibility: A Strategic Approach, University of Pennsylvania


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©Olivier Le Moal


Platform: edX

Length: 4 weeks (2 - 5 hours a week)

Cost: Free + $50 for verified certificate

This is an introductory level course that covers both the triumphs and pitfalls of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Participating students are sure to have a leg up, as CSR has become an increasingly popular topic that will become indispensable to MBA programs.

The course, which considers key interactions between philanthropy and self-interest, is taught by four instructors from the University of Pennsylvania, University of Connecticut, and Erasmus University.


4. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work, UC Berkeley


Platform: edX

Length: 4 weeks (1 - 2 hours a week)

Cost: Free + $200 for verified certificate

Perhaps the most underrated, least quantifiable skill of them all: interpersonal relations. While students may not encounter a course of this caliber while working towards a degree, this short, 4-week course could make all the difference in facilitating positive relationships with future colleagues, employers, and more.

The course hopes to ‘understand how the skills of emotional and social intelligence support organizational happiness and productivity.’

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence at Work is taught by UC Berkeley’s Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas, who are also creators of the popular, ground-breaking MOOC, ‘The Science of Happiness.’


READ MORE: Are Coursera Courses Worth The Effort?


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5.  Marketing Analytics: Marketing Measurement Strategy, UC Berkeley


Platform: edX

Length: 4 weeks (5 - 7 hours a week)

Cost: Free + $250 for verified certificate

This highly-rated course aims to debunk some of the mystery surrounding the marketing field by introducing strategies to identify trends and track marketing successes. The course spans a mere 4 weeks and intends to serve as a gateway into more advanced marketing courses. Metrics are a main focus here; Professor Stephan Sorger of Oracle, 3Com, and NASA guides students to size and predict future market conditions.


6. Just Money: Banking as if Society Mattered, MIT


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©Jirapong Manustrong


Platform: edX

Length: 16 weeks (3 - 4 hours a week)

Cost: Free + $50 for verified certificate

For students interested in learning more about the fundamentals of the US banking system, this course offers a detailed run-down of the roles that banks play in the US economy. Course instructors have extensive experience working in banks globally, with particular interest in discussing the future of banking and financial technologies. The course is lengthy—16 weeks—but asks admirable questions about how banking can address social and ecological challenges in society. 


7. Risk, Return, and Valuation, University of Michigan


Platform: Coursera

Length: 22 hours

Cost: Free + $49 for verified certificate

Here is one of the few graduate-level courses on our list, for students who want to plunge into the waters of the MBA experience. Taught by University of Michigan Professor Gautam Kaul, this 6-week course delves into the link between risk and statistics. Readings and graded assignments are all part of this free course.


8. Keeping up with Change: Issues for the Finance Professional, University of London


Platform: Coursera

Length: 34 hours

Cost: Free + $49 for verified certificate

This forward-thinking course hopes to better equip students with the tools necessary to succeed in a rapidly changing business environment. It is an intermediate course that seems especially tailored for soon-to-be MBA students.

Course modules transverse topics such as strategic planning, recent changes in standards, and corporate governance.


9. Financial Markets, Yale University


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©Antonio_Diaz


Platform: Coursera

Length: 32 hours

Cost: Free + $49 for verified certificate

Hosted by Yale University professor Robert Shiller, Financial Markets examines the ‘ideas, methods, and institutions that permit human society to manage risks and foster enterprise.’ The aim of the course is to guide students towards using the principles of market systems to create a better society. This would be an ideal course for MBA candidates who may have been out of a college for a few years and need to brush up on market basics.  


10. Managerial Accounting Fundamentals, University of Virginia


Platform: Coursera

Length: 13 hours

Cost: Free + $49 for verified certificate

Learn more about cost behavior and cost allocation systems with Managerial Accounting Fundamentals. Professor Luann Lynch advises students on conducting cost-volume-profit analysis and employing best-practice managerial decisions.


NEXT READ

Online Learning: Pros & Cons


This article was originally published in May 2018 and was updated in October 2020. 

MBA Lands AirAsia.com Chief Of Staff Job During COVID-19 Uncertainty

Yizhen Fung is three months into her role as a chief of staff at AirAsia.com, the travel and lifestyle app for the airline giant, reporting directly to the CEO.

Even before COVID-19, aviation was rapidly changing and transforming, and in the past few months has seen serious disruption. But Yizhen is no stranger to adverse circumstances, having spent months job hunting in one of the most uncertain job markets for decades. 

Resilience and adaptability have proven to be key to her skill set, both of which she grasped and harnessed during her MBA at Asia School of Business (ASB) in Malaysia, and which will stay with her in a post-COVID world. 


Transitioning into the private sector via an MBA

Fresh out of high school in Malaysia, Yizhen went to study law at the University of Oxford. Graduating from the prestigious program had set her up for a successful career in legal practise: the only problem being, she didn’t want to become a lawyer. 

She returned home to Malaysia, where she started working at the Securities Commission, a regulator for Malaysia’s capital markets, working as an advisor and speech writer for the chairman. 

“I had a reflection that, while the regulator plays an important role in facilitating innovation, the true driver of innovation really lies in the private sector. I wanted to be a part of that,” Yizhen remembers. 

She wasn’t clear exactly which industry or role she was destined for, but knew that, to get noticed by any employer in Asia, she had to get some experience under her belt. 

She spoke to a close friend who had graduated in the inaugural class at Asia School of Business’ MBA, who raved about the Action Learning experience he had got from the program. “I was so impressed with the pan-Asian exposure he got, and how the experience transformed him from a self made entrepreneur to a well rounded corporate leader.” 

It was clear that the ASB MBA could give her a wide-spanning experience across sectors that could set her up for the commercial career she desired. 


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Gaining experience through action learning

ASB’s MBA is designed around an iterative, experience-based curriculum which gives candidates exposure to different industries and companies across Asia. Central to this are the five Action Learning projects which each participant takes over the course of the MBA. 

Yizhen describes these as the “jewel in the crown” of her time at ASB, encapsulating what makes the ASB program so unique for professionals like herself looking to launch a career in Asia. 

First, she was able to harness and strengthen her leadership skills. Action Learning projects give students the responsibility of working on real life consulting projects with major companies looking to address certain challenges. 

It pushed her to take initiative and adopt a leadership role which she may not have had experience doing previously. In many cases, working at the client site involved advising clients who were 10 years her senior. 

It taught her to be collaborative, particularly with groups from multiple backgrounds. “Given the diversity of the program, it’s often about learning how to work in a team with any number of personalities that you can get matched up with.”


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It also prepared Yizhen to be, as she describes, “ASEAN ready”. 

Given cultural diversity across the Asian continent, Yizhen notes how important it was to get on-the-ground experience working in different countries as part of her Action Learning. This included working at the world’s largest glove manufacturer in Malaysia, a major family owned bank in Thailand, a Thai-owned beverage company based in Hanoi, and a beauty manufacturing company in Hong Kong. 

While the companies and industries were diverse, they all shared a common goal—”All the companies were relatively established businesses, but were all trying to explore new ways of growth.”

At the beverage company, for instance, she was involved in devising a market penetration plan for the beer industry in Hanoi. “We were able to deeply dive into the consumer mindset and map out the customer journey and what would be the best strategy to penetrate.”

As well as helping to give her a good understanding of how business was done across Asia, it also helped her narrow down her career pathways to areas that she knew she was more interested in. 


Job hunting during COVID-19 and finding a role at AirAsia

Yizhen graduated in April 2020, just at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Job hunting became a full-time job in itself. Many employers had frozen hiring amidst the economic uncertainty: she even had a job offer which was deferred indefinitely.   

She was lucky to be able to draw upon several valuable takeaways from her MBA. An entrepreneurial mindset, instilled in her from her first day at ASB, taught her to treat every day like it was the first day. This gave her the discipline to formulate a daily job hunting routine. 

Secondly, a healthy dose of optimism. “It was about how to see a silver lining in every cloud, even with a very bleak outlook.”

She quickly saw the value of having an MBA under her belt. Employers were impressed with her ability to apply specific examples—many from the Action Learning projects—for certain skills or leadership traits. So when AirAsia called, regarding a chief of staff role, she swiftly landed the job.

Given that AirAsia is one of ASB’s corporate partners, and continues to hire ASB MBA graduates, she acknowledges her alma mater played an important part in getting the role. 

AirAsia, as a global leader in aviation, is at the forefront of addressing the challenges that the tourism industry is facing at present. But her MBA has prepared her perfectly for the fast changing culture at AirAsia. “If you dissect the skills I needed to thrive in a volatile environment, it's the ability to learn and unlearn quickly, to adapt to what a new environment needs.”


READ MORE: From Malaysia To MIT Sloan: My Experience On An MBA Sponsored By AirAsia


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COVID-19: Why You Need To Be More Resilient At Work

On his first day in his new role with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Matthew Colphon greeted his team virtually, from home on his computer. He’s been working remotely ever since.

Matthew is the senior product manager for unsecured credit lines at RBC, a role he took on in June after spending just over three years in the bank’s strategy team. 

He says the COVID-19 pandemic is like a global case study on how to adapt to scenarios we don’t know or haven’t experienced before. Onboarding new staff virtually has become the norm. It takes resilience and grit, he says, to continue to add value to an organization during this time.

Even before the pandemic employers were looking for adaptability and flexibility in their MBA hires. Since coronavirus has completely shifted the way we work, professionals increasingly need to show resilience.


Why resilience at work is important

Resilience, explains Ivan Yuen, associate director of MBA careers at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business (pictured below), is something employers use to measure a person’s long-term leadership potential. When we speak of resilience, we’re speaking of a person’s ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis, or to quickly return to a pre-crisis state.

Employers’ recognition of resilience as a crucial trait among employees has increased during the pandemic, Ivan says. It’s been stressful moving from the office to working from home and seeing your family and working lives come closer together. Adapting and thriving in this environment shows an employer that you can deliver value during challenging times.


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Matthew, who completed his MBA at UBC Sauder in 2015 and worked as a consultant at Bain & Company before joining RBC, says the MBA equipped him to creatively solve problems he hadn’t seen before. This served him well when taking on a new role at RBC this year.

“I think resilience is important for an individual to be able to deliver, but it’s also important to teams as a whole, so you can deal with any large challenges that come up, adjust your plans, push your egos aside, and make sure you’re delivering something of value.”


Developing resilience on the UBC MBA

On the UBC MBA, students learn quickly how to work in a group environment, how different cultures interact, and how different personality styles respond to different styles of leadership.

The school uses the Emotional Capital Report (ECR), a leadership development tool created by emotional intelligence training company, RocheMartin, with clinical psychologist Martyn Newman. 

MBA students benefit from UBC Sauder’s approach to strengthening core EQ competencies such as resilience for long-term career success, and learn how to measure their own emotional intelligence.

“[The MBA] focused on developing your awareness and teaching you how to talk to people, how to understand people’s motivations, and work not just in a project group but with other stakeholders as well,” Matthew (pictured below) explains.


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Building resilience through unfamiliarity

UBC MBA students build their resilience further through global immersions, where they travel to new countries to solve local challenges. In these unfamiliar environments, MBA students learn to be humble and rely on other people for information. 

“That’s almost the perfect definition of resilience right there; being able to eat your own ego sometimes,” Matthew says. 


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“The MBA reawakened my ability to grind things out, work a lot harder, and accept the fact that things are going to be challenging and the only way to get through it is to push and be dedicated to what you want to do.”

Resilience is something employers are looking for not just from full-time hires but MBA interns as well. 

After the coronavirus outbreak, many of UBC Sauder’s MBA students started internships virtually in a work environment alien to the one in which they worked before. That has tested their resolve and their resilience.

“We’re hearing a lot from employers asking MBA students what they are doing during this crisis. They are putting the onus on students to demonstrate and show what kind of ability they had to rebound and respond to changes they can’t control,” Ivan explains.

“The resilient students demonstrate an ability to adapt to the changing economic and political environment every day. They’ll continue to grow regardless of how things change.”

COVID-19 To Black Lives Matter: Why MBA Students Are Learning About Social Impact

Both COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement have pushed social issues to the fore in 2020, and businesses are responding. 

US companies donated more than $450 million to social and racial justice groups in the wake of the 2020 BLM protests, with giants like Sony Music pledging $100 million.

In the UK, Coca Cola, BP, PwC, and countless more signed the C-19 Business Pledge, vowing to leverage their power however they can to help the pandemic, and protect both employees and customers.

As companies becomes increasingly conscious of their effect on society, the onus is on business schools to incorporate added social impact into their teaching.

At the University of Georgia Terry College of Business, MBA’s are using the social innovation track, an extra thing, to apply hands-on learning experiences with non-profits, service learning projects, and B Corp initiatives.

Such initiatives are key to ensuring the focus on social impact will lead to genuine change. 


The shift to social impact

Consumer demand drives the long-term shift towards social impact in business, Sundar Bharadwaj (pictured right), a professor of marketing at Terry College, explains. 

“Customers increasingly expect brands to have a social purpose, not just a great product” says Sundar, who focuses his research on how businesses leverage their power for social good, and how it reflects in their branding.   c0c8ccfd8e4133e7eec59fe58147103d60337f2e.png

Research from the UK backs this up, where B Corp certified companies—businesses commited to ethical business practices and goals— experienced an average year-on-year growth rate of 14%.

Zack Godfrey is a recent Georgia Terry MBA graduate, with a background in driving social impact initiatives through big corporations such as Hewlett Packard (HP). He believes the trend is partially generational, with millennials tending to have more interest and knowledge about where their products are coming from. 

“Because of these changes, social impact is now being used by brands to guide communications, inform product innovation, and steer investments towards social causes,” adds Sundar.  

This has sparked a transformation in marketing, which traditionally promoted products based on their functional and emotional attributes. 

Now, there is an added societal attribute, leaving companies scrambling to become, or at least appear to become, more social impact-oriented.





Studying social impact at business school

As a result of this wider shift in business, MBAs see social impact as a vital part of their business school curriculum. 

Business ethics courses are in high demand, and The Financial Times MBA rankings added corporate social responsibility (CSR) to its methodology for the first time in 2019.efb6c8d4db43ffdf0cc08305c26300dbda6195e7.jpeg

When researching his MBA, Zack (pictured right) was attracted to the strong links the Terry College shared with local businesses dedicated to social impact.

During his studies, he became a board member for Athens Made, a non-profit guiding such businesses in achieving their impact-driven goals. 

These contacts give the Terry College an edge in terms of offering real world experience. Of the 2020 MBA cohort, 100% of gained internships, many of them with a social impact focus.

“With experiential learning opportunities, you learn a lot more than just looking at a textbook, and you get to apply your knowledge right away” says Zack. 

“The variety of work experience on offer at Terry College also prepares you particularly well for consulting roles, where you’ll work on a huge range of projects throughout your career” he adds.

A quarter of Terry College MBA graduates go into consulting. Zack joined a consulting project to maximise internal operations efficiency during the continued fight against COVID-19.  

Consultancy provides MBAs with chance to direct multiple companies towards social impact across various initiatives, meaning a broader potential for change. 


READ: how can an MBA help you launch a career in social impact?

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How can firms do better?

By bringing their knowledge and values from business school into the corporate world, MBAs are well placed to help firms develop their social impact work. 

One key teaching in Sundar's classroom is the need for firms to commit to measurable goals over a sustained period. It is the only way to ensure that social impact becomes a real movement, not just a marketing trend.

“With the Black Lives Matter movement, many businesses made one-off donations, but failed to make any significant long term goals around the cause,” explains Sundar. “It’s very episodic right now— we need systematic change.”

Zack agrees the answer lies in long-term goals, and businesses need to demonstrate goals beyond hitting their quarterly numbers, a lesson he learned directly from his work with B Corps during his MBA.

The frameworks B Corp provided, explains Zack, were particularly useful in equipping him to help local businesses scale up whilst sustaining a commitment to social impact. 

The real challenge is how larger corporations can make this shift into becoming more sustainable and ethical, when they already have complex supply chains and a pre-established brand identity. 

Though these companies face more of a challenge than smaller businesses that have been impact driven from the start, Sundar says the big corporations have the real power to enact meaningful change. 

In which case, MBAs must be educated in social impact, since it's the MBA candidates of today who will run big business tomorrow. 

“We need to start doing things differently in business,” Zack concludes. “As MBA programs continue to evolve to meet the challenges of the future, Terry College of Business is poised to become a leader in that space.”

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