We recently caught up with Harvey Duan and Pawan Nrisimha (two-thirds of founding team behind www.uberessays.com) and chatted about B-school and technology. Here's what they had to say:
1. What's one technology you can't live without while studying your MBA and why?
Pawan: The Internet and the smart-phone! I've worked on designing chips for mobile devices (smart-phones, tablets) throughout my career. It was not until the day of my MBA orientation did I decide to get myself a smart-phone. I absolutely needed it to keep pace with all the fun stuff that friends decide to do almost instantaneously, projects going on with different team-mates, networking information from student clubs, and also for marketing efforts of my technology start-up www.uberessays.com.
Harvey: I don’t think I’d be able to live without my iPhone. It can do everything I need to do in the palm of my hands. Even though we have all these different technologies, my iPhone is still the best way I can keep in touch with my family and friends.
2. Can technology get in the way of your studies? How do you cope?
Pawan: As with anything, there are always pros and cons to technology. While technology can keep you abreast of latest developments, it can also hinder your creative thought process. The case study approach is a common mode of instruction at Haas. The cases are typically based on situations in the past for which a solution is sought. The correct approach to learning would be to place yourself in that time-frame when the problem existed and offer a solution. If you’re very attached to technology and cannot resist the urge to look up what had actually happened to the company, the whole purpose of the case study is lost. This is, however, a necessary evil of technology.
Also, letting students use Internet gadgets during a classroom session will hinder active discussions and information sharing. The main purpose why I’m pursuing an MBA is to understand and appreciate the opinions of fellow students with a diverse background. I expect everyone to be equally engaged in the session without distractions.
Harvey: You can spin this in many different ways. Of course technology can get in the way of your studies, but technology can also help you be productive. You just have to stay focused!
When I take a step back to think about technology, it’s crazy to think how attached we are to the Internet and the devices we use. Imagine trying to do your homework without the Internet or a laptop? Considering most of our assignments and coursework are posted online, it’s nearly impossible do things without an Internet connection. I remember the days when you had to go to a library to look up information.
3. What online technology service do you most often use (excluding search engines) in class and why?
Pawan: Haas follows a technology free classroom policy. The only gadget I remember using is an electronic “clicker” to answer some pop quizzes in an “ethics” class. The clicker was very useful to simulate and observe the decision making process and of real firms. It was a fun exercise.
Harvey: In many of our classes, there is a no laptop policy to keep students from being distracted. However, this semester, we've been using these response clickers for our ethics class. It’s much better than people raising their hands and having classmates influence your decisions. Also, in our organizational behavior class, we also had this management simulation that forces us to make different decisions based on the responses of co-workers and management.
4. What is your favorite technology device; laptop, tablet, smart phone, etc. and why?
Pawan: My smart-phone has been my best friend lately. I am connected to everyone no matter where I am. I can actively share and review documents to make efficient use of my time.
Harvey: My favorite technology device is my laptop. Since I am frequently traveling, I can do work wherever I go. I know tablets have been very popular lately, but I haven’t made the transition yet.
5. Is there a technology you wish could be invented to help your studies?
Pawan: I wish I could wirelessly feed the entire MBA coursework and student network into my brain instantaneously. Jokes aside, I really wish there was a free video conferencing solution [with a blackboard feature] that can accurately simulate a personal meeting. This would help especially when my homework or project teammates are at different geographical locations. Current phone conferencing and free video conferencing solutions are still not a substitute to a personal meeting to work through projects.
Harvey: Yes, I wish we could teleport. This would allow me to do more things in the limited amount of time that we have. But realistically, I have everything I need at this moment, but I’m sure this will change in the very near future.