Smartly – Halfway There!

As some of you know, I’ve been pursuing an online “MBA” from an educational startup called Smartly, which provides students with the tools to succeed in business over the course of 6 months or so.  It’s been a great change from my usual day job, and given I’m about halfway through the course it’s definitely time for some feedback.

The Smartly MBA is structured in a way which makes it really easy to learn, and hits the majority of concepts which an actual MBA program would go into as well.  Broader lessons are separated out into 5 minute bite-sized concepts which makes it easy to get through a couple on a coffee break or on your commute to the office.  They’ve made a real effort to keep the learning interactive and fun, so while online classes typically have lectures which you’re required to watch, Smartly has eliminated lectures completely.

The module on Stocks above shows how the syllabus typically progresses through the lessons.  Smartly has made it easy enough for anyone to go from no knowledge of the product material whatsoever to feeling fairly confident in only a few lessons.  As someone with a background in finance, many of the core concepts were relatively easy for me, but regardless it was a great refresher.

The lessons are separated out into the basics (Business Foundations), Accounting, Markets/Economies, Data & Decisions, Leading Organizations, Marketing, Finance, Supply Chain & Operations, and finally Strategy & Innovation.  Everything is online, and Smartly has created a great mobile app as well for iPhone users to get a couple lessons in on the go.  I’ve personally completed the majority of the courses on my phone, and have gotten into the habit of knocking out a few lessons during my commute and at lunch.

The Pros

You really can’t top how it easy it is to get through the Smartly lessons.  I’ve taken a number of Coursera and EDX courses in the past, and my rate of completion is easily in the 10% range.  Smartly does a great job keeping things interesting and fun, and the fact that it’s structured as an “MBA” gives it a sticky factor which other online courses lack. The course creators are definitely marketing this to the millennial generation, and have made a real effort to keep lessons fun and engaging. The app experience is very fluid, and the fact that it’s available on the iPhone really doesn’t give you too many excuses to slack at any point in time.

The Cons

As much as I’ve enjoyed the course so far, there are definitely a few issues.  Firstly, and perhaps this will change at some point, the value of an MBA seems to come mainly from the perception of the school’s brand and the connections you make along the way.  Smartly has a long way to go to receive a similar level of recognition to accredited MBA programs. Secondly, the depth of learning in the material is lacking at times, which may be balanced out by the fact that it does keep students engaged throughout the course.  Finally, the Smartly team provide us with “case studies,” but given many of us are spread out across the globe, coordinating with teams of people you’ve never met (and rarely engaged with) typically ends up falling flat.

The Sum-Up

Overall, if you’re looking for the opportunity to learn more about business concepts and become a more well-rounded candidate, then there’s very little downside to pursuing a Smartly MBA.  Regardless of the fact that it still lacks the recognition of accredited MBA programs, I am quite positive that prospective employers will still value the fact that students are putting the effort into something beyond their day jobs.  Smartly appears to be running the MBA program every 3-6 months, so get out there, apply, and see what happens.  What do you have to lose?

This review is not solicited by Smartly, but feel free to check out their website regardless!

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