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A MOOC Based MBA Approach, for free, for all!

Have you ever felt that an MBA is becoming a new must-have to be competitive on the job market? Would you like a free MOOC Based MBA?

I had this feeling. So I started researching the options to see which one could be of service for my needs and came up with the following:

The alternatives:

  1. Full-time MBA: A quick examination of the Top Full-time MBA Institutions (see this & this), I would go for the Insead, Europe Campus  (€71,000)
  2. Executive MBA/Global Executive MBA: According to the rankings, I would like to choose between Kellogg / HKUST Business School (China/USA)  ($161,200 USD) and Insead Europe Campus  (€104,000)
  3. Online MBA: Repeating the ranking method (Online MBA Rankins for 2015), being pragmatic and checking Value for money to rank, I would choose IE Business School (€43,200)
  4. MOOC Based MBA: Free, or the iMBA option from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ($20,000 USD)

Conclusions, which one to choose:

To draw a quick summary:

  • Why did I really want to do an MBA:

At the time my interest for an MBA took place, I was working as a Service Delivery Manager in Gabon and thought suiting to advance on my Academic front, and what better than a Master in Business Administration. But after reading a lot, I realized two things: MBA titles are mostly good for salary and career advancement in industries that are not of my interest (Banking and Investment). MBA titles in my industry (Oil & Gas) have less weight than work experience. Combining theses factors with the fact that I wanted to study an MBA to become a better leader and manager, paying those huge fees, plus associated cost (of around 20k USD per year), and the time required, seemed unnecessary.

  • Where is my real passion:

Aside from being a good boss all-around, I realized I also really like Project Management, and there are few institutions that have that option as a specialization/focus for the MBA, but the time/cost conundrum was still there.

  • What to do:

So, my final conclusion was to go for the “Free” option, a MOOC based curriculum to simulate an MBA program. This, of course, loses the Network benefits of MBA’s (which some people say IS the reason to go to one of the Top programs), and I would also lose the chance to showcase my learnings in a conventional way: no diplomas. The benefits are: I get to choose world-class universities and courses, network with students online, and focus on the things I find more interesting.


This Learning initiative is the biggest one I’ve undertaken in recent years. These courses are free, made by world-renown universities, with some of the best Professors in academia, and with extremely user-friendly interfaces with Video, Bulletin Boards, Texts, and Quizzes. But even will all of this, Online courses have a very low completion rate (see here, here, here, and here), which, by the way, is difficult to measure, but nonetheless: Taking online courses, by your own, while working, and having to spend hours in front of a screen watching videos, doing assignments, meeting deadlines and taking quizzes is hard. Very hard. Daphne Koller, President and Co-Founder of Coursera, touch on this during the Coursera en Español launch Event that took place on September 29th of 2015 in Bogotá, Colombia; she explained that there are different intentions behind student enrollment and that the completion rates among those that take the paid certificate are much higher, given motivation and vestment reasons. Side note: I spoke in this event about my experience with Coursera, I’m also part of their volunteer Global Translator Community (GTC).

Coursera Event with Jason, Daphne and David Suescun

Lanzamiento de Coursera en Español Event with Jason Bigman, Daphne Koller and David Suescun (not the best picture, but I don’t have anymore). Picture taken by Omar Rozo.

I started looking for courses online to learn on six different Core Specializations: Communications & Marketing, Leadership & Management, Business and Corporate Finances, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Global Business & Economy, and Project Management.  And so my journey began around Jan 2015 when I started working on completing an MBA curriculum completely based on MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course).

The challenges:

  • Finding good quality courses
  • Low completion rate. Finding motivation without having to pay for the certificates to push through.
  • Bad connectivity in Gabon (where I was when I started doing this)
  • Time limitations: after hours and weekends

The solutions:

  • Coursera, EdX, Udacity and many other platforms have world-class courses in their catalogs.
  • Using Willpower, Creating Habits, Singletasking, and reviewing how to stay motivated to learn.
  • Download all the course material throughout the night and during the day while I was sleeping or away.
  • Use speed controls to go through the material at 1.5x or 2x, depending on the professor and the complexity of the lectures.

The curriculum:

Note that the presence of a grade indicates completion. Lack of grades indicates on-going (or failed but still in my learning plan.) Audit Only means I took the course but won’t get a grade because the MOOC provider demands to purchase the certificate to grade the exams (This took place in 2016, so a lot of you will have to choose between Audit-only or purchase the certificate.)

Communications & Marketing
Leadership & Management
Business and Corporate Finances
Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Global Business & Economy
Project Management

I’ve completed some of the courses that appear without the score but failed them (some by little, some by far).

My tips and hacks:

If you want to find out how exactly did I manage to overcome the challenges I’ve faced, please subscribe to my email list and you’ll receive it as soon as I’m done writing all the details. The subscription box is on the top right, or you can use the smart bar on the top.

Have you tried something like this? Let me know in the comments!

PS: No-Pay MBA is an excellent resource devoted to this kind of endeavor.