How to Survive an Online MBA Program

survive-online-mbaIf you are accepted into an online MBA program, you will have both increased flexibility as well as more responsibilities. In addition to good time-management and study skills, you will also need a computer, reliable access to the Internet and the software that is required by your program.

WHAT YOU SHOULD EXPECT IN AN ONLINE MBA PROGRAM

In many ways, earning an MBA online is similar to earning the degree in a campus program. There are, however, some important differences.

The classes that you will take and the ideas and skills that you learn should be the same in an online MBA program as in a traditional program. However, rather than sitting in a lecture hall or small seminar, you will view pre-recorded lectures, live webinars or PowerPoint presentations to learn the material.

Your assignments may be similar to those that you find in traditional MBA programs, but in an online program you will either upload your assignments online or e-mail them to your professors. Like brick-and-mortar MBA programs, your online MBA program may give you the opportunity to participate in an internship. Some programs even require it. If you have this chance, you should take advantage of it in order to put into practice the skills and theories that you learn in class. And internships can provide online students a particularly good chance to network with other business professionals.

WHAT IS AN ONLINE CLASS LIKE?

Online classes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Every business school and professor will have a say in how an online MBA class is structured and conducted. Some classes are synchronous, which means that students and instructors must be online at the same time for lectures and discussions. Other online classes are asynchronous, which means that you can log in and complete your assignments on your own schedule.

Reading materials for your online classes may be provided in physical textbooks, or they may be available as downloadable documents or e-books. Lectures may be pre-recorded audio or video files or simply PowerPoint presentations that outline the major points of a lesson.

If your online classes have exams, they can be take-home exams, timed exams online or proctored exams on campus. Take-home tests and timed online exams can be completed at home. Proctored exams must be taken at physical sites such as local colleges or public libraries where someone administers the test and monitors you while you take it.

HOW YOU CAN SUCCEED IN AN ONLINE PROGRAM

Your online MBA program can present you with new challenges in your education experience. The following tips should either refresh your memory or give you some new ideas on how to make the most of your online education.

STUDY TIPS

Choose Your Study Environment Wisely

    • A quiet place to study can help make your study time more productive. Find or create a place that is quiet and that does not have much visual stimuli.
    • Figure out when you study best and try to arrange your study sessions around those times as much as you can.

Make Studying a Habit

    • Be sure that you do not place studying at the bottom of your daily to-do list. If you work or have other responsibilities, it is especially important that you prioritize your responsibilities and give yourself plenty of time to study each week.
    • Try to create a study schedule and then stick to it. This will make studying a priority and a habit.

Study Purposefully

    • Your brain and eyes need rest. When you study, be sure that you take breaks every 30 to 50 minutes.
    • Your motivation to study is at its height at the beginning of a study session, so plan to study your most challenging material first.
    • Separate your study time from your personal time. This can be difficult if you have a very busy schedule. However, it is very important to make time for yourself to do things that you enjoy no matter how packed your schedule is. This can help refresh your mind and avoid burnout.

READING TIPS

Read for Speed

    • Go over your assigned readings to see if any chapters or sections cover topics that you already know about. If they do, you can skim through those sections to save yourself time.
  • If you feel like you are not reading quickly enough, try moving your eyes across the text faster. Doing so can speed up your reading without diminishing your comprehension.

Read to Learn

    • Use a dictionary when you read. Looking up words you don’t know will improve your vocabulary and your command of the subject matter.
    • Do not highlight and underline everything you read. Only mark the words and phrases that are essential.
    • Give yourself a break from reading every 20 to 30 minutes. Your eyes and brain need to rest in order to take in and retain information.

NOTE-TAKING TIPS

Find a Style that Works for You

    • One study technique that many students find effective is the Cornell method. To use the Cornell method, fold an 8.5 x 11-inch piece of paper in half and lengthwise. On the left side, record key words, ideas and phrases. On the right side, explain why these are important.
    • You can also use short sentences to explain and describe the major points of a lecture or reading assignment.
    • In the standard outline form, you can use numbers, letters and indentations to organize the main points and supporting materials of a lecture or a reading assignment.

Note Only What Is Important

    • You should not try to write down everything that you hear in a lecture or read in an article or book. Extract only the pertinent information that will help you remember or understand the overall subject.
    • Look and listen for cue phrases that will help you take notes more effectively and efficiently. Phrases that present lists like, “the following reasons,” or phrases that suggest causes and consequences like, “therefore,” and “consequently” are examples of common cue phrases.
    • Shorten the amount of time it takes you to write things down by using abbreviations and symbols and leaving the vowels out of words.

TIME MANAGEMENT TIPS

    • Set up a schedule with realistic time frames and free time built in. Make a note of how long it actually takes you to do all kinds of tasks, from getting ready in the morning to fixing dinner to reading an article. This will help you to create a more realistic schedule.
    • Expect the unexpected. Even with an accurate and realistic schedule, unplanned events will sometimes pop up, and homework assignments will sometimes take you longer than you expect. Leave yourself free time in your schedule each week in case you need to make up for lost time.
    • Study efficiently by studying during the time of day that works best for you.

STRESS MANAGEMENT TIPS

Stay Healthy

    • You should treat yourself well by eating healthy foods and exercising regularly. Good food and regular activity help you stay alert and reduce stress levels.
    • Sleep regular hours and try to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night. When your brain and body are rested, you are better able to absorb, analyze and retain information.

Stay Positive

    • Avoid being overly critical of yourself if you do not always meet your goals. This is usually counterproductive and only causes more stress, which will likely make you even less productive.
    • Having a positive attitude when you approach new or stressful situations lowers your stress levels and allows you to more effectively deal with challenging situations.

MAXIMIZING THE EXPERIENCE

There are a number of things that you can do to make the most of your online MBA program. For instance, even though you may be geographically separated from your classmates and professors, try to engage with them as much as you can over the Internet. Use the class discussion boards to discuss your coursework and potential internships and jobs. You can also enhance your MBA online by volunteering, networking and gaining real life experience through internships.

BALANCING SCHOOL WITH WORK AND FAMILY

While earning an MBA online can seem like a more convenient option than traditional programs, it will still require you to adjust your schedule. In order to balance your program obligations with work and family, you should try to make a schedule and stick to it as closely as possible. If you consciously dedicate time to school, work and family by including them in your schedule, you will probably find it easier to balance your various responsibilities.

INTERACTING WITH PROFESSORS AND CLASSMATES

Regardless of whether you are enrolled in an MBA program online or on campus, you should still treat your professors and classmates professionally and with respect. As an online student, you should use every opportunity to talk to your professors, advisors and classmates. Even if it is through e-mails and phone calls, speaking with people involved in the same program can be helpful and give you a sense of community.

NETWORKING

You should make a determined effort to network with instructors and fellow students while you are enrolled in your MBA program. Networking can be as simple as starting a conversation with someone you do not know. If you are nervous about networking and meeting new people, remember to have a positive view of yourself and do not be afraid to start up a conversation with a stranger.