Strategies for Maximizing Your Online MBA Experience

What are the key strategies and insights that can empower you to extract maximum value from the online learning experience?

The flexibility and convenience offered by Online MBA programs have improved access to graduate business education, attracting a new audience of working professionals eager to enhance their career prospects. But pursuing an Online MBA program also comes with its fair share of challenges, from self-discipline and time management to limited face-to-face interaction and networking opportunities.

Participants in Online MBA programs will, therefore, need to navigate the digital realm effectively in order to extract maximum value from their online learning experience. So, what are the key strategies and insights that can empower you to make the most of your Online MBA program, unlocking the doors to professional growth and success?

Do your homework 

The first step to take is to evaluate Online MBA programs effectively, given the wide menu of options at a time of robust demand for online education post-pandemic. “One of the biggest mistakes that applicants make when evaluating Online MBA programs is failing to completely research and assess fit with their aspirations, as well as their personal and professional commitments,” says Mo Moeini, course director for the Global Online MBA at Warwick Business School in the UK.

“Online MBAs vary in their curriculum, so applications should review the program’s content, including module topics and teaching methods to ensure that they align with their learning preferences,” Moeini says. 

Warwick’s Global Online MBA, for instance, offers students the opportunity to customize the learning experience and focus on specific areas such as social and environmental sustainability, entrepreneurship, or healthcare by selecting relevant electives and aligning their dissertation with the chosen field of specialization.

An applicant’s biggest mistake is assuming that price point is the only aspect they should be assessing, adds Shelbi Brookshire, assistant dean of MS and MBA and admissions at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, in the US. 

“Instead, they should identify three-to-five extremely important aspects of what they want out of the experience, not just the degree. These factors include what type of faculty teach the courses and to what extent do students have access to career resources and the school's alumni population,” she adds.

Forge close connections with peers 

The second step is to build strong relationships with peers once you have selected and enrolled in the Online MBA program. “Engagement and relationship-building in an online program can require some effort, but it is certainly achievable and provides tremendous value,” says Kacie Jones, senior associate director of recruiting and admissions for online programs at Gies College of Business in Illinois.

“Learners in online programs have the ability to create meaningful relationships that span the globe,” she says. With the Gies iMBA program, learners collaborate together in live classes and on group projects. Students also have opportunities for engagement outside of the classroom through social media platforms, staff and student-led meetups and virtual and in-person immersions.

Further, the Smith School’s Adam Shpall, a graduate career consultant, says that relationships are built on trust. “One of the ways to build strong relationships with peers is to go out of your way to assist them, whether that is learning about their career aspirations and offering to make a connection for them, or going above and beyond in your deliverables on a project.”

Applying what you learn in your job 

Alongside networking a crucial component of any Online MBA program is having opportunities to apply the concepts you learn at business school in the workplace. This third step is vital to maximizing the benefits of online learning.

“A unique aspect of Online MBA programs is that most learners are actively working while pursuing their graduate degree, so the application is immediate. We often hear stories of taking a concept learned in class and applying it on the job the next day – or taking a challenge at work and discussing it with peers and faculty in the live classroom that evening,” Jones of Gies College says.

Her other top tip for making the most of the Online MBA is not to race to the finish line. “While many students are in a rush to complete their program as quickly as possible, some of the most successful learners take a little more time and really soak in the opportunities to engage outside the classroom – they lead study sessions, serve as program ambassadors and facilitate meetups in their home cities,” she says. 

That extra engagement means they may only take one class at a time, but the slow and steady pace pays off in the end.

Shpall from the Smith School issues similar guidance: “Make sure to take advantage of activities outside of the courses, including participating in co-curricular activities such as case competitions, pro-bono consulting opportunities, as well as networking events held by career services,” he says.

“It would also be advantageous to develop relationships with faculty members and career coaches, who can serve as trusted advisors and drive your career forward.” 

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