Transitioning from an Online learning environment to the MIT campus learning environment

By Ehtesham Ahmed & Tabjeel Ashraf SCMb candidate 2019

The MIT Supply Chain Management’s Blended Cohort for the year 2018-19 is a pretty diverse group of individuals. I use the word ‘Individual’ to emphasize that each person as an individual committed over one and a half years of his or her life doing the micromaster’s credentials, managing work/life balance, and spending over 12 hours a week going through the course material. It was an individual achievement of each and every one of the thirty-six people in this year’s batch.

Getting into the MIT Supply Chain Blended program was an amazing opportunity for me. I decided to take this opportunity, but I had my fears about whether I would be able to cope with the coursework. Coming from seven years of a full-time job, it was difficult for me to imagine going back to the university to the ‘classroom environment,’ even though I had completed my micromaster’s credentials.

We had a lot of opportunities to mingle with the SCMb batch during the first week. From all my interactions, I got to know that most people like myself were coming in with industry experience and did not have an understanding of what we were truly in for.

Great Dome of MIT

Studying online gave us a lot of flexibility on how to study the different courses. While watching the videos, some people preferred to go fast, some preferred to go slow, but each and every one learned at his or her own pace. The one common thing that each of us had was the desire, perseverance and commitment to complete all the five micromaster’s courses and take the CFx exam.

Being here at MIT is a dream in itself, but watching Dr. Yossi Sheffi, Dr. Chris Caplice, Dr. Eva Ponce and all the other faculty members who made the videos and with whom we all interacted virtually teaching us in real life is a surreal experience. It is hundred times better learning from them in real life than through online videos.

However, learning in-classroom brings about its own challenges. It has advantages and drawbacks, the first being that the flexibility that online learning provided us is not there. The pace of the classroom setting is defined by the instructor. There are no repeats or rewinds or pauses! But with thirty-six individuals going through the same situation, these drawbacks are easily overcome by group study sessions, hard work and support from CTL advisors and post-doctoral candidates. They make sure that you will survive.

I remember in the first week, we had our first social event with the SCMr batch and with all the CTL faculty and post-docs in attendance. Dr. Josue Velazquez (Executive Director of the SCMb program) came up to me, introduced himself, and during the conversation, he himself said ‘Our goal is to challenge you during your five months here.’

Fear not, though: during the first three months here I have heard the phrase that studying at MIT is like ‘drinking through a firehose.’ It has absolutely felt like drinking from the firehose with managing the pre-readings, class assignments, homeworks and the capstone, but I have definitely felt challenged by the pace and the knowledge transfer. My experience here is very different from what I imagined when I got my offer letter in May 2018.

I would recommend each and every one of you to attend this program if you receive your offer letter because you will not regret the decision even once.

The decision to come to MIT was not easy; leaving behind my family and going for in-classroom learning. But I have survived with the help of new friends and the staff at CTL. 

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