Enrolling in an MBA online program may be the most rewarding decision you make in your professional life, but reaping those rewards takes discipline, hard work, and an appreciation for the nuances of distance learning. These five tips provide a good foundation of fundamentals for your success:
Have a Strong Support System
When you take on the challenge of an MBA program, it helps to have a support system that can motivate you and affirm your ability to succeed. Just as in an academically rigorous on-campus MBA, there will be all-nighters and nail-biters. On-campus students have the camaraderie and in-person support of their peers, so you’ll need people who will listen and offer similar moral support. More importantly, you’ll need your family or friends to cooperate with you to enable your success each day, by taking care of the kids, the housework, and other responsibilities when you need the time to study.
Limit Distractions to Zero
If you were taking an on-campus MBA, the campus environment, professors, and students would keep you in a conducive frame of mind for academic success. But if you’re surrounded by noisy children, dirty dishes, and a teenager on the phone, it can be hard to get properly focused. Because you are studying from home, it’s important that you have a dedicated office or study area that you can go into, shut the door, and shut out distractions. Establish a house rule that there should be no distractions unless there is an emergency.
Become an Expert at Time Management
On campus, you would have the benefit of a professor verbally reminding you of assignments, projects, and exams. Online, you’ll need the discipline and time management to watch for the information, plan time for each task, and then budget your time in order to get everything done. Students who excel in time management usually spend a few minutes each day determining how much time to allocate to each task. Here’s a good habit, especially during the first few months of your MBA online program: Note the minutes you spend on each task after completion, and use this information to track and improve your use of time.
Get Familiar with the Technology
If you’re not technologically savvy, don’t worry. Today’s online learning management systems – the infrastructure of your online degree program are very user friendly. Few people ever have issues with understanding the applications, but some do take longer to get comfortable than others. Most online degree programs offer an introductory course that reviews all of the applications you’ll be using. If it isn’t mandatory, be sure you take it anyway. Beyond the webinar, chat, forum, and A/V file software you’ll be using, different courses require other software applications. Find out before each course begins if you’ll be using Excel, PowerPoint, or any other software that you’re not yet proficient with, and take an online tutorial. Your program should offer tutorials, but if it doesn’t, there are many online, including YouTube videos. Finally, before enrolling, check to see that your program offers 24/7 tech support should you run into any issues, and learn about the procedures for getting your support tickets resolved before you encounter any problems.
Get Involved with Other Students
Your peers in an MBA online program can be excellent resources, both academically and professionally. Studies have shown that your opportunity to succeed increases dramatically when you get involved in cohorts, or work groups. Many programs and courses will place students in cohorts, but you’ll also want to voluntarily connect and form informal groups, whenever possible. Use this time to develop the leadership, teamwork, and collaborative skills that are so valuable in today’s corporate environment. In the process, you’ll network and earn valuable contacts that could lead to your first job after graduation.
Incorporate social media as well, to broaden your network with other students, alumni, and instructors, particularly LinkedIn. The strength of your professional network is just as important to your career prospects as the strength of your academic performance.
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