Change is the only constant. What business school program, graduate or undergraduate, wouldn’t benefit from a periodic makeover — a reset every three to five years, to incorporate new developments and information, not to mention teaching techniques and technology?
Most B-school programs evolve gradually with the times; few get an actual relaunch. Now, the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business is showing what that looks like with its Online Master of Science in Business Analytics. The Smith School has announced that its OMSBA, which was first launched in 2018, is relaunching with major changes, giving students what they want most: more flexibility and shorter duration at a lower price tag.
That last point is crucial, says Suresh Acharya, professor of practice and academic director for the MS in Business Analytics program. The Smith OMSBA will now cost about half of what it used to. “That is a big deal,” Acharya tells Poets&Quants. “And it makes us quite competitive with some of our Big 10 brethren: Wisconsin, Michigan State, and of course Purdue.”
PROGRAM TRIMMED TO 16 MONTHS, WITH JANUARY & AUGUST INTAKES
Acharya says the relaunched OMSBA program will replace required, synchronous class sessions with asynchronous learning and periodic live “touchpoints” with the faculty. Students will use essential tools like Python, R, SQL and Tableau to build predictive analytics, data management, statistical modeling, and decision science skills, enabling them to detect and interpret trends in massive amounts of business data. Course topics will range from Predictive Analytics and Big Data/AI to a number of domain electives in Marketing, Finance, and Supply Chain Analytics.
The 30-credit program will have fall and spring start dates and can be completed in as little as 16 months, down from its previous 22-month duration. “We were a five semester program, 22 months,” Acharya says, “and what you and I do with 22 months is, we round it up and we say it’s a two-year program. But working professionals may or may not have an appetite to sign up for a two-year program, so we have now condensed it to be a 16-month program.”
Perhaps most importantly, it will cost about half the original $50,000 price.
“We have given this a lot of thought,” Acharya says. We’re kind of looking at what other folks are doing. And now, obviously, we’re a lot more price competitive.”
Acharya says when the Smith OMSBA program launched four years ago, Maryland had “first mover advantage” because there were very few MSBA programs.
“But what we soon found out was that others were not too far behind,” he says. “It doesn’t take a whole lot of time to spin off an online program. And very quickly, even in this area, but also nationally, now a lot more programs have actually come up.”
Other schools — including some that are ranked higher than Maryland Smith — began offering business analytics master’s that cost less and finished quicker. But Smith’s leadership also wanted to take into account the suggestions from students, particularly when it came to in-person “touchpoints.”
“We learned about what our working professional students — the target audience for this — wanted,” Acharya says. “In our ‘version one’ program, they learned a lot of the content, but once a week, we wanted them to come to class to learn something. And what we found over time is, they want to learn everything by themselves and only reach out if they really need help.
“This once-a-week required class, we found, ended up being onerous on the students. It was actually clear that we really need to put everything that we do online.”
TOP FACULTY WILL TEACH IN THE PROGRAM
Among the faculty teaching in the new Smith OMSBA will be Michel Wedel, an expert in consumer science and among the top 2% of the most-cited scholars and scientists worldwide; Gisela Bardossy, a member of Decision Science Institute and the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education, with expertise in statistics and quantitative methods for business decision making; and Acharya, who spent 25 years designing and building statistical and optimization solutions in supply chain management, retail planning, logistics, pricing and revenue management, and more before joining Maryland Smith in 2018.
“Michel Wedel is a renowned researcher,” Acharya says. “There are 15 faculty members in the Smith School that rank in the 2% of most published in the entire country. Michel Wedel teaches Advanced Marketing Analytics in our program — so that’s the kind of caliber we have in that one category. But we have a bunch of wonderful research faculty, and the students will have access to them.
“Another featured teacher is Gisela. She has been teaching for a long time, has won a number of awards. In my mind, what she does so well is she connects so well with the students. You can be a wonderful teacher and deliver, but you also need that human connection.”
‘WE WANT YOU IN THE PROGRAM’
For prospective OMSBA students worried about diving into the deep end and quickly becoming lost in the analytics thickets, Smith will offer an opportunity to polish their foundational technical skills. The Analytics Bridge Program of mini-courses and workshops focused on statistical concepts, structured programming, and related technological skills will meet on successive weekends in early January and early August, right before classes start.
The Bridge Program will help students develop the basic coding skills needed to start the program, Acharya says.
“We will enable students to write their first line of code,” he says. “So if you’ve never written code, welcome to the Bridge Program. Let’s actually write a ‘Hello, world’ Python code. Let’s write a ‘Hello, world’ R code. So we’ll do that together, so that when you go to class, the professor’s going to meet you where you’ve already written a ‘For’ loop now. Right? Let’s take that fear, that concern away from you.”
Acharya says the program has a target of 50 students, and he doesn’t want those with less analytics background to be scared away.
“You have been working for 10 years. You were a wonderful anthropology major from Emory University, a wonderful school. And now you’re dabbling into analytics. We want you in the program,” he says.
Applications to the Smith OMSBA are open now, and the first cohort gets underway in January 2023. For more information, go to Smith’s Online MS in Business Analytics homepage.