Frequently Asked Questions

About Zero Cost MBA

What is ‘Zero Cost MBA(Envisioning 21st Century Global Manager)’?
It is a self-designed project to gain skills, required to become a global executive. It has been conceptualized during my visit to EU, as a way to address multidimensional challenges faced by global corporations. I have observed lack of interdisciplinary aspects in existing MBA curriculum, therefore I completed this project using easily available resources following the approach of ‘learning by doing’.

Why did you decide to go with your own learning path instead of simply enrolling in a university/business school?

It is a very good question. There were 2 strong reasons.

  1. Choosing skills over degree: By now, you might have seen that my ambition was too big to be fit in any available conventional managerial program. Moreover, my obsession was gaining the skills, not with the degree.
  2. Aiming for Zero Cost: Even, if it could be possible to fulfill my ambition of becoming this interdisciplinary person from traditional education than I might need to wait for some more time before the start of new session. But there is no guarantee, I can afford it in future also. I had no interest in becoming them. Even if it was possible (like doing an MBA), I have to wait for 17-18 months before next session starts. And even if I wait, there is no clear answer on what my financial situation will be at that time. With already aware of the mismatch between university education and industry requirements, the results of which are many people sitting with high debt occur through their student loan. To remain debt-free was my major priority.

How different is it from a regular MBA?
It is much more than a regular MBA. It has elements of interdisciplinary trends, cross-cultural understanding and more emphasis on learning by doing. The concept global manager has not been envisioned properly (in my view) in the regular curriculum. So it is offering a window to a future managerial educational program.

Why is it called ‘Zero Cost MBA’?
As mentioned earlier, this entire project has been done by using easily available resources. As this did not include any cost or tuition, it has been called ‘Zero Cost MBA’.

What was the time frame of this project? What were the steps involved in it?
Project was started in March 2012 and ended in June 2014. It involved 3 phases:
Skill set identification phase: March 2012-April 2012
Implementation phase (pilot basis): May 2012-June 2012
Implementation phase (full time): July 2012-June 2014

What resources did you use?
Other than my time, interest, and energy for creating something new, I have used resources from than 250+ places. It includes:
– Courses from top universities (Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Wharton, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, HKUST, University of Copenhagen etc) offered via MOOC(Massive Open Online Course) or OCW(OpenCourseWare) format.
– Easily available information in the public domain. It included company annual reports, regularly updates published by government/international organizations to name a few.
– Newspapers, books, television, public/private libraries.
(you can click this link to get information about all the other resources)

You will always be compared with other conventional MBA degree holder, and many will not recognize your efforts due to various reasons. In light of such skepticism, what do you have to say about it?
Well, a new idea has always met with a criticism/skepticism. Apart from that, I believe an MBA degree holder has to have certain qualities. They are:
Managing complexity, innovative and critical thinking, problem-solving, effective/transparent communication skills, leadership and interpersonal skills, cross-cultural sensitivity and diversity, decision making and problem-solving, design thinking and dealing with constraints.

I believe, my project has the ability to provide all such skills in a real-world implementation way, then theoretical studies. So, it can be even much better than the classroom at some levels. It does not matter, how and from where he got such knowledge and skills. ‘Life’ is a bigger classroom than anything else.

Soft skills are an important part of managerial education. How did you develop them?
Agree, without having proper communication skills, it is just a dream to become a future global manger. I was engaged in many different activities from past 10 years, thereby gradually developing such skills. Therefore, I did not go with them again in ‘Zero Cost MBA(Global Manager for 21st Century)’ project. My communication skills were further enhanced by acquired linguistic and cross-cultural competence.
You are welcome to glance this website to have an overview of all such soft skills.

What were some of the challenges faced by you in this project? You did not go to any university campus to gain the education, do you feel missing on something? What made your experience better by going through self-learning path than the conventional ones?

Certainly not. I have met so many interesting people from around the world, which could be impossible through classroom education. I have designed my own learning methods, devised new tools, and experimented with my projects.

Before I answer your second question, let me remind you that, I already been to universities and have 2 technical degrees. Plus, all of these courses were offered by the universities only. So, what made my experience better with MOOC?

Peace of mind: I was not under pressure to be top of my class/batch and I totally focused on my learning. I put a lot of efforts in making it more enjoyable by taking extra readings, self-designed project, and engaging in discussion forums outside the course. This made my learning more concrete and more valuable.

Flexibility: I was able to choose the kind, of course, I should study to develop the skill-set I needed. This flexibility allowed me to expand my knowledge base in coherence with my interests and market requirements.

Experimentation: I experimented a lot while following “learning by doing” pedagogy. For a course, I have done a project on a bank in Africa. I have also prepared a strategic plan for agricultural NGO in Sierra Leone. Participating in competition in Eastern Europe allowed me to use my knowledge in Economics, Business Strategy and Market Research Simultaneously. I have also done projects in Central Asia, Latin America, China, Japan, Russian, and India. Such projects enhanced my capability towards becoming a global thinker. There was much more experimentation being attempted and I definitely feel good about this experience.

Depth: With flexible time frame provided by online courses, I gained a lot of depth in some of the areas of my interest. I like to especially quote ‘Economics’. I have spent lot of time outside the courses in following market trends and analyzing the information on my own. I can easily say that I have spent 4-5 times more time in many subjects than prescribed by a course. The depth achieved in a particular subject could not be achieved easily.

Discipline: I had to make my own plans, time schedule, and learning activity. This was very difficult initially but proper utilization of Project Management methodology helped to finish multiple courses and gaining satisfaction with my learning curve.

Networking: I met people from many different countries in the classroom. I have also interacted with many people on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other forums while practicing my knowledge. Working with people (or interacting) with people from different time zones also helped to optimize the time and improved my intercultural competence. I have also expanded my network in more than 100 countries and recently put it to the test in my ‘Global Translation Project’.

Being debt free: It is very personal but unable to fund a conventional MBA was the reason behind my ‘Zero Cost MBA’ project. Today, I am debt free and the feeling of being able to take risks and able to pursue new paths is very fascinating.

Is it true that you have done everything using computer and internet connection?
Partially true. I have also participated in many public events to improve my knowledge about new trends. It included discussions on Indian Budgets, Urban Planning, Stock Market, Finance to name a few. I have developed new skills like ‘Storytelling’ through such participation.
I have extensively used Television to get updated on the information on experts view on any given situation.

Further Work on ‘Zero Cost MBA’

Can you tell more about the ‘Global Marketing’ and ‘Global Translation’ projects?
After finishing ‘Zero Cost MBA’ project, I realized that there is a lack of awareness about the benefits of online education. So, I decided to tell the world about my unique unconventional project. I called it ‘Global Marketing’ Project and you can read more about it here:

During the ‘Global Marketing’ project, I received a lot of requests to get my work translated into other languages. They thought, my project can be valuable to many people around the globe. Therefore, I initiated another step in my project called ‘Global Translation Project’. Through this, I have approached more than 2000 individuals around the world to get my work voluntarily translated into 105 major world languages. Read more about it here

What is the relevance of your project to others?
Being the first in the line of designing entire learning path, you can take many things from my project.
– Flexible approach in education. An individual can design his/her own learning path based on the market requirements.
– Useful to many people who may not have dedication/time/money to get a formal university education. (Working mothers,senior citizens, housewives, physical disable person, people living in remote areas, person with a demanding job or family responsibilities etc).
– It is 21st century. Most of the people are using technology as their third hand. My project has provided glimpse of future of higher education. How a person can gain education from 20 different universities in a global classroom just with a computer and mouse, all by sitting at his home.
– Emphasis on practical skills by following the ideology of ‘learning by doing’.
– Learning strategies developed in ‘Zero Cost MBA’ will be helpful to any organization to develop their workforce on market demands.
– ‘Global Manager’ concept will be helpful for large corporations in the coming years to prepare new generation of managers.

On Online Education

What advise you like to give to other online learners?
Online education has opened new frontiers for knowledge-hungry people. It is all about your interest, thirst for experimentation, and ability to discipline yourself in gaining a new skill. Online education is just a medium. Using it rightly lies in your hands.

Critics are saying, that online education is no match for university education. Others are labeling MOOCs and other e-learning formats as a start towards the end of university education. What do you have to say about it?
Online education is making learning anywhere, anytime to anyone. It is providing another gateway to people unable to go to university due to various reasons. And to be honest, real learning happens in the ‘real world’, which is mostly outside the classroom. And, my project has demonstrated that online education can provide the necessary knowledge to develop market-ready skills.
To another set of critics:
MOOCs are not meant to replace university, they are only there to extend the outreach of education to others. Those who can go to university, they should go to university. Those who can’t, online education is there to provide them the university experience in a different format.
Future of higher education will be much more different than what we have seen till now. Technology will take much more space than previously in learning.

There are many projects being run by different individuals similar to Zero Cost MBA, what do you have to say about them?
Everyone has one own way of looking/doing things. Some of them have taken inspiration from my project but they missed the practical aspect of my entire project. Many of them lack the practical portions. Just studying courses and gaining theoretical knowledge was not the purpose of ‘Zero Cost MBA’ project.

Would you advise others to design their own learning paths?
Yes and No. It is totally up to the individual person. Going in your self-designed learning path looks a catchy headline for the newspaper, but it requires a lot of efforts on an individual. Therefore, my advice to others would be to first analyze, what is in their best interest.
If going to university is best for them, then go for it. If they feel, designing own learning path is what they need, then go for it. For me, it was gaining skills and staying debt free were the top priorities. Reasons for others may be different.

From your own experiences, do you think online education will replace traditional classroom education?
No. I think classroom education will remain there. Online education will merge with classroom teaching to improve entire learning experiences. At the same time, online learning will provide access to quality education to many other people.
The only thing needed now is for academics and everyone around to accept online education as one of the important tools in learning. My project has already demonstrated it and it is time to think about it positively.

Many of the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs ) are not free anymore? How does Zero Cost MBA fit into this situation?

Yes, many courses are asking to pay a nominal fee to either access the course material or accessing (course material+ verified course completion certificates).
I think it is a good step towards providing better quality education.
Many Governments are launching their own platforms on MOOCs format. Therefore, there is no need to be disappointed.
Regarding, ‘Zero Cost MBA’, MOOCs were mostly used as a way to enhance knowledge about the chosen area. The knowledge can still be gained using OCW(OpenCourseWare) and other publicly available websites.

                                                        On Experiences with ‘Zero Cost MBA’


Could you share what your best and worst experience was while studying MOOCs?
The most exciting was the day when I got to know about Coursera. That was the time when I was not even aware of the term MOOCs. It was back in 2012. You can also view the tweet from my Romanian friend, which led me to this entire discovery and project.

Knowing Coursera

– I have checked the majority of discussions after the course completion for my first course, ‘An Introduction to Operations Management’. Not just reading discussion posts, I approached approximately 2000 course participants using their listed contact details (Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter/Blog/E-mail)and thanked them for their wonderful opinions.

I have done something similar with the course ‘Design Thinking’ by Stanford University at NovoEd platform.

-In September 2013, I have lost fast broadband connection, when I moved to a new house. It was on outskirts of the city, with no internet provider offering services those days. I was taking 3 courses at that time. Studying courses were my full-time work, so losing few weeks was not an option. With no solution in sight, I started to visit a nearby internet cafe every morning. This cafe was located approximately5-6 km away with no direct public transportation link. Many times, I had to walk if unable to find public transportation. Even though this was the fastest Internet cafe I have found, the speed was very slow. I sat at least 3 hours regularly to download only 4-5 lecture videos. On my return trip, I had to face afternoon sun as well as rely on some luck to find public transportation. Many times, I walked the entire distance. Coming back at home, studying those lectures and repeating this entire process next day became a routine activity for me for a couple of weeks. Fortunately, I have passed all those courses and I just smile while remembering those difficult days.

-My internet problem did not end so soon. By October 2013, I bought a USB modem to get slow speed internet access at home. Still, I had to go to the Internet cafe to download videos. Sitting with patience on this slow speed internet, it was possible to submit assignments and finish quizzes. Soon, I faced one of the most exciting nights of my life.

This internet stopped working hours before the deadline for first peer evaluation assignment in Designing Cities. I was thinking to submit it in around midnight (Indian time), which is afternoon(Pacific time). I went up from my house in 5th floor to 9th floor, assuming that weak signal could be a reason for this error. It did not work. Then, I came out of my building, walked around the entire housing complex just to get internet working at least for 5 minutes. Nothing happened!! It was already 1 AM and I was losing patience. Finally, I took my laptop and came out of housing complex and started walking towards the telephone tower. I was walking on a national highway which is the only route to a tower. I was completely unaware of the fact that this road is generally patrolled by the Police during the night. Soon one of the patrolling van spotted me, stopped me for identification and asked why I am walking at 2 AM on a highway that too alone?? Initially, I was clueless, but later explained them my problem and even shown them my assignment as a justification. Well, they did not allow me to go further from that point and even warned me for not doing this again.

I returned back home and tried every possible method to get it work all night. It worked only at 6 Am after making me sleepless entire night. I will never forget this experience 🙂

In November 2013, I have moved to another city to stay with my younger brother and finishing my final phase of this study program. Internet connectivity is still an issue here. With low signal strength at my current residence, many times I sat outside in doing important work. Be it sitting outside in cold nights or eventually working under street lamps, I was able to submit assignments and take part in discussion forums smoothly in some of the last courses of my entire project.

– Although I was very confident in managing my time and especially time zone difference, I missed submitting some assignments on time. It was either my miscalculation or lack of proper internet speed in submitting my work on time. The courses such as ‘Latin American Culture’, ‘Understanding Russians: In the context of intercultural communications’ and few more were just missed. Well, this may be the worst experience of all. Assignments were ready but I just could not complete the required criterion of meeting course completion.

There have been many such experiences but these were the most memorable of all.

What is the best outcome of this entire project?

I am debt free, got the skills wanted, and tested everything at practical skills.The global manager concept has been tested in ‘Global Marketing’‘Global Translation’. Today, I have a network in more than 100 countries, ability to communicate in more than 3 languages and talk to people of a different culture very easily. I feel much more happy to get practical skills than theoretical knowledge.

[More questions have been answered in MOOCLab Q&A session]

More questions?

Post them in the comment section below.

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