Online is even better than the real thing

MBA fairs are going virtual, with plenty of advantages over traditional ones, says Russ Thorne

With such a vast variety of MBA courses on offer at thousands of business schools worldwide, getting to grips with all the options can be a daunting challenge for prospective students.

Simply getting in contact with potential institutions canbetricky enough, especially for a global qualification such as the MBA that sees students travel all over theworld to study.

Last November, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) attempted to make the world a little smaller for students with GMATCH, a new virtual MBA fair. “It’s like around the world in 80 days,” jokes Julia Tyler of GMAC. “GMATCH is designed tomake it easier for schools and candidates to connect, wherever they may be in theworld.”

As the owner of the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), taken by some 264,000 students in 2010 and used by 1,900 business schools as an entry qualification, GMAC is well placed to pick up on students’ needs, Tyler explains.

“Our surveys showed very clearly that students want more information, more easily, and online. That reflects where candidates are these days.”

In addition, schools are under pressure to keep budgets in line and travel costs down, she says, while at the sametimewanting more regular and more meaningful interaction with students. Going digital was the perfect solution, she says – “It became a no-brainer.”

To deliver schools and students the kind of interactive communication experience they were looking for, the organisation created an online environment where business schools could set up stalls in a virtual conference centre (presumably without the expensive parking).

Once logged on, students had access to 56 business schools from all over the world. In addition to talking to staff via instant messaging, they could participate in panel discussions about creating effective applications, or get advice on sitting the GMAT exam; they could also watch virtual presentations and take part in real-time Q&A sessions. In total, 1,750 prospective students from 136 countries tookpart,withnocharge for participating, and their feedback was positive. As one student put it: “It was virtual but felt so real. Sitting in Saudi Arabia, I could never have imagined all these universities would be accessible and available to me.”

For the schools, exhibiting at the virtual fair was a rather more relaxing experience than attending one of its real-world counterparts. “It gets a bit chaotic,” says Steven Cousins of Cass Business School. “You get a lot of people coming through in a short period and you don’t get to have a long conversation.

“Online fairs gave a different angle. People could beat home, or they could attend after work. And it’s a format that potential candidates are used to; they’re comfortable with using social media to communicate.”

Tyler agrees, and argues that this kind of event isn’t a sign of future practices. “It’s not the future, it’s here now,” she says. “The people going to business school now were born with this kind of technology and it’s part of the way they work. Interactive communication like this is just the way of the modern world.”

There are many potential benefits to the kind of communication available at virtual fairs, according to Cousins. “During the fair we were able to direct people to specific parts of our website, or arrange follow-up phone calls,” he says. “And we had all our resources at hand during the virtual fair, whereas when you travel to a physical one it depends on what you can carry with you.” He also cites being able to speak to several people at once “without it becoming one big noise” as a distinct improvement on real world events.

Of course, the possibility of instant communication across several time zones didpose challenges. “The reality is that you may be speaking to a candidate on the other side of the world at 3am your time,” says Tyler. “But there’s the advantage that you haven’t had to travel all the way to Asia to speak to them: they’re at your fingertips.

You could be sitting with your feet up!” Cousins acknowledges the same issue, explaining that he and his colleagues adopted a relay system with some staff working late at the office until others took over from home.

Sleep-scheduling conflicts aside though, schools and students agree that the virtual fair gave them much greater access to one another. “The ability to interact one to one with the admissionstaff of the business schools was the best aspect,” according to one student. “A candidate like me would not have an opportunity to speak to so many schools otherwise.”

Stacey Dorang, assistant MBA admissions director at the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University, agrees. “We were excited to take part in the GMATCH fair to interact with potential students we wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet in a live setting,” she says. “The virtual environment opens up a world of information to prospective MBAs and gives them access to schools that they might not otherwise even know exist.”

Ultimately, virtual fairs are less about the technology and more about helping students make informed decisions.

“My advice always is ‘research, research, research’,” says Tyler. “But research in the right place. Using something like GMATCH gives you the opportunity to meet more schools in a short period of time – especially if you want to study outside your own country –than you could conceivably do any other way.”

Cousins believes that GMATCH was a positive experience for Cass, and that the school will be taking part in future events; but he stresses its usefulness for students above all else. “I think online fairs give them the opportunity to find out more about the schools and how they fit with their needs,” he says.

“I don’t know a single MBA course that isn’t incredibly expensive and incredibly hard work, so it’s a bigcommitment. It’s the last professional qualification many people ever take, so it’s important to spend the time researching it and working out what’s going to be the right fit for them.”

The next GMATCH event is planned for this autumn – check www.mba.com for updates and registration details.

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art

The Sistine Chapel is set to be illuminated with thousands of LEDs

News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Sport
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Business StudiesTeacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Supply Business Studies Teacher...

English Teacher

£110 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: English Teacher - CaerphillyT...

Welsh Speaking German Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£115 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Full time WLM German Supply T...

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher - French

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Modern Foreign Language Teach...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?