Changing perceptions about online learning


July, 2020

Written by Jocelyn Mendez 

Ben Percifield was never a big believer in online education, but took the step into the virtual world when he joined us for our first ever online strategy bootcamp. We sat down with Ben and discussed how this experience not only changed his mind about online school, but made him a stronger strategist.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi, I am Ben! I moved to Toronto at the beginning of the year and I speak Mandarin Chinese fluently. I’m from the states, but I studied at McGill where I won a reality tv show competition to represent Canada in China. From the competition, I was awarded a scholarship to study anywhere in China. I decided I’d rather work in China, and learn by doing.

Why did you choose strategy as a career?
Language and strategy are mediums in which ideas are presented; a way to connect with others. I consider advertising to be commercialized culture. Because strategy is not dependent on a discipline, I felt it was the role that would allow the most creative thinking.

You can see everyone live, and it feels like a classroom.

You can see everyone live, and it feels like a classroom.

Ben Percifield
Strategy Bootcamp Graduate
Online Spring 2020

The Online Experience 

Would you have ever signed up for a 3 month online course, if it wasn’t for COVID-19?
Co-vid made me do something I wouldn’t have done in the first place. I had looked at other schools and I was turned off, because I didn’t want to do online. I thought the online classes would be delivered similar to a twitch platform; where you would have only the instructor visible and a chat box. 

Now that co-vid hit and I’ve gone through it, I think online is better – especially with all the tools Miami Ad School used. You can see everyone live, and it feels like a classroom. I felt like it was a true interactive course.

How was the online group dynamic?
Oh amazing. It was an intimate dynamic. I think because we were all isolated, that this was our social circle. We were so sweet and supportive of each other. I love my classmates. They are great. Also, being the only white guy in the class was such a plus for diversity. My classmates were all culturally diverse as well. It was so interesting to get the same problems, and see our individual ways forward. I thought I was going to come in with something super original but no one had the same idea.

Which platform did you enjoy the most?
Slack! I was dropping all the readings of any book the instructors would mention on it. You can make your own emojis; it changed the game. Zoom was great too, because it was consistent with its connections. The post class recordings we received helped me to redigest information.

Is this online bootcamp more or less of what you expected?
More than I expected. I felt like I underestimated that there is an incredible curation of who is in the program, from the classmates to the instructors. The value of hearing how a Chief Strategic Officer talks about strategy, how they present, the words they choose – I understood that those things would be available but I didn’t know how valuable it would be.

You don’t get grades, you get guidance and feedback.

You don’t get grades, you get guidance and feedback.

The Bootcamp’s Structure

What aspect of the online bootcamp was the most challenging?
Honestly, the bootcamp was very exponential in terms of workload. It got faster and faster. The first couple of weeks there are no assignments, and then an assignment every week. As you make the projects, you want to add them to your portfolio, and that in itself is another challenge.

How did you find the structure of the course?
I liked the class length (3hrs). We took small breaks in between. It was weird to know when to eat dinner. On Saturdays it was more interactive, more quizzes, and assignments. This isn’t a pass fail class. You don’t get grades, you get guidance and feedback.

How much time did you dedicate outside of class time?
On work outside of the class I would spend roughly 10-15 hrs on a weekly assignment. I also signed up for newsletters, and read books recommended. When you get good feedback, it incentives good work. I tried to do as much work as possible.

Is it really for me? By the end, I knew I was on the right path.

You don’t get grades, you get guidance and feedback.

How do you feel after the Program? 

How did you feel on the first day compared to the last day?
It’s crazy the amount of confidence I gained from point A to point B. At point A, I was really excited to see where this goes.Thinking is it really for me? By point B, I knew I was on the right path. Everyone was so knowledgeable. Strategy doesn’t need specialization, your breadth of knowledge can be your speciality. I know a little bit about a lot of things. I feel like what I had and what I developed are going to be useful.

Do you feel ready for the job?
Yes, I feel ready. After going through the portfolio sessions where you speak to 12 people in the industry, it was great to get glowing feedback. They really affirmed that I was ready, and prepared for these conversations and roles.

What’s the best piece of advice that one of the mentors gave you?
Simplify. I tend to make things too complex. They told me to tell one thing, not 8 things, just make sure everything funnels back to that one important point. Be honed and sharp. Simplify!

Final words?
I think this course was only as strong as the people who made time. I want to give back as much as my instructors have given to me. For as fun as it was, it was useful in that it builds you up. If you are considering it, I’d love to talk to you. I’m not an expert on anything, but I have a perspective and isn’t that really what strategy is?

Join us for our upcoming online Strategy & Planning Bootcamp!

Spaces still available.

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