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How the Metaverse will Solve the Challenge of Online MBAs

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

Spoler Alert: the Key is Networking like in the Real World

The pressure of the pandemic felt planetwide has not only been a tragic loss of life, but also a great accelerator of trends already in motion. The foundation of technology had already been laid down and the idea of doing things remotely already tested, but when the world was forced into isolation to save our physical health in the spring of 2020, the world’s economic health suffered devestating loss. Solutions needed quick implementation, and the natural path was the one already being pioneered.

In the last decade, learning and educational services provided from a distance was already a growing trend, as were medical, legal, and governmental services. Food delivery from restaurants and supermarkets skyrocketed and entertainment via streaming services may have been the catalyst, to moving people from the silver screen, back home to their flatscreen. So when MBA programs were faced with the challenge of continuing to deliver their infamously pricey programs, moving to an online model became the obvious solution for nearly every top-ranked business school listed on the prestigious Financial Times Global MBA Rankings. In most cases, schools and students alike found that with online teaching, whether fully or hybrid, the transmission of knowledge and hard skills was relatively eaasy to do, following the many examples of MOOCS, webinars, and other virtual models of information transmission.

Since networking successfully depends so much on the human element, MBA programs who make use of Metaverse technology can solve the problem of being at distance by creating virtual situations that very much feel like you are in person.

Teaching soft skills and networking, however, which is what many grads say is the real added value of an MBA these days, has proven to be a lot more challenging. This is where an MBA uguably has the greatest ROI— building those professional relationships which lead to landing a great position at a top multinational post-MBA. Things like trust and relationship-building depend very much on feelings, shared experiences, eye contact, and even touch. Some studies argue for the importance of our olfactory abilities in that sense of smell plays a signifcant invisible role in the success or failure in human connection. That said, how close of a connection can you feel with a 2-dimensional version of people who appear on your laptop or mobile phone screens? More importantly, how does this translate into a job?

Here’s where the Metaverse comes in. Since networking successfully depends so much on the human element, MBA programs who make use of Metaverse technology can solve the problem of being at distance by creating virtual situations that very much feel like you are in person with fellow students, alumni, head hunters, and future employers. Imagine an avatar of yourself in a metaversal networking cocktail, chatting up the hiring manager of your dream firm, being able to have a meaningful conversation over a glass of pinot noir, concluding with a handshake and an exchange of business cards. Even before you get to the job hunt stage, simply during your program, being able to build relationships with fellow MBA participants around the world. The people with whom you often become the inner circle of your professional network; these are the people who will most likely go the extra mile to help you fast-track to a job interview or be a first-round investor when you launch your start-up. Whether due to financial or ecological reasons, a shift to virtual experiences made real and creating the feeling of connection, solves the problem of connecting students in distance learning to employment.

Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has been singing the praises of the Metaverse-to-come, how we’ll be able to go to government offices to handle administrative obligations in this glorious new world that they try to help us imagine, but frankly the effort of jumping into the avatar version of myself, just so I can virtually replace my expired driver’s license, only to be mistreated by the grumpy avatar of desk clerk #8 doesn’t exactly get my virtual juices flowing… Companies are focusing on the wrong benefits of this burgeoning technology.

The good news is, many business schools are already taking distance learning to the next level. In a recent article from Business Because, the deans of several prominent business schools were interviewed on their vision of how technology will enhance distance learning and education in general. Delphine Manceau, Dean of NEOMA Business School (France), spoke about the experimental phase of implementing tech in the classroom is over, and that the world is ready for a more mature approach. Schools like ESSEC Business School (also France) have made a dramatic shift in one of the strong selling points of their Global MBA program, which historically included trips to several business hubs in places like Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong, and New York. Instead, program participants are equipped with VR (virtual reality) headsets, allowing them to attend company visits, conferences, and networking events around the world, while reducing the carbon footprint and cost of the program. Perhaps a little less glamorous, but clearly the responisble thing to do in the face of climate change and restrictive tuition fees. Clearly, business schools with responsible leadership are pushing things in the right direction, and the Metaverse appears to be the desired destination in the forseeable future.

When it comes to the limits of the Metaverse, we haven’t heard much talk of olfactory experiences…yet! But considering the fact that a professor at Meiji University in Japan recently invented a lickable screen that can imitate the flavors of chocolate, pizza, or toasted bread, maybe we’re not far off from that either. Until then, I’ll stick to my own favorite bottle of pinot noir.

-Eric Lucrezia, Coach/Author, Candidate.Coach

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