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How To Develop Your Professional Skillset On A Distance Learning MBA

16 Feb 2022

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for online degree programmes was already on the rise, with Research and Markets forecasting the value of the online education market to reach $350 billion by 2025.

Whilst online degrees offer benefits that on-campus degrees can’t always match like flexibility and lower tuition fees, what about experiential learning opportunities, group projects and networking? Is it still possible to get a full learning experience and develop your professional skillset when studying online? The answer to this, is yes.

TopMBA caught up with three Distance Learning MBA students from Warwick Business School, which ranked 3rd in the world in the QS Distance Online MBA Rankings 2020, to find out more.

Speak up and get involved in online and offline events to boost your networking skills

The opportunity to build a professional network is a big attraction for MBA students íV whether they study online or on-campus. Knowing how to navigate the logistics of online networking can be challenging, but there are plenty of ways to make a good impression and build professional relationships.

Establishing your online presence and engaging with your cohort, faculty, alumni and other connections by putting your best, professional foot forward in discussion forums and digital events is an easy way to make conversation and get to know others.

Some online MBAs, such as the Distance Learning MBA, invite students to attend in-person events including residential weeks and meets-and-greets. Warwick Business School hosts two residential weeks, held either on campus or at Warwick Business School London, depending on the programme location candidates are enrolled on. During these weeks, candidates meet their fellow cohort and professors face-to-face, and take part in practical case studies, group projects and attend networking events.

Due to the current pandemic, this year’s cohort were unable to attend the residential weeks in person and joined online, instead.

Apply what you have learnt to your job and vice versa

Warwick Business School’s Distance Learning MBA is designed to help accelerate your career, increase your business knowledge and leadership skills, and maximise your industry awareness without taking time away from your career.

With a focus on practical experience and applied business reasoning from the very start, distance learning MBA students can apply their newfound knowledge straight away to their job. Not only does this highlight your value in the workplace, it can stimulate your learning experience too.

Matt Miller is a portfolio manager for a multinational energy company in Germany and in Austria. He is currently halfway through the Distance Learning MBA and is putting into practice on a daily basis what he has learnt in the leadership, operations management and accounting and economics modules.

“I’m reflecting on and developing my own leadership skills, understanding capital investment decisions through a finance mindset, and learning more about our operational processes.

“The course material is incredibly practical using real-world examples as well as learning from my course mates.

Viola Langat is the founder and head of operations of The Purpose Co. Kenya, and echoes Matt’s sentiments:

“The modules we have covered so far such as operations management and leadership have helped me rethink how we run our business and reorganise things to maximise efficiency.

“I am also greatly enjoying the marketing and innovation modules which are giving me a whole new perspective on how to establish the company in the market and how to ensure it remains relevant,” she said.

Keep an open mind, ask questions and make the most of class discussions

Advancements in technology have allowed for the effective integration of interactive learning materials such as webinars, live Q&As, quizzes and discussion boards. Active participation and collaboration are encouraged as it can offer perspectives and points of view that you may not have otherwise considered, further enhancing your exposure to new ideas and industry practice.

As you learn to work and study with a cohort who may not even be in the same country as you, using email, video calls, discussion boards and other forms of digital communication, you’ll find new ways to develop your problem solving and leadership skills. This will demonstrate your worth as a team-player when it comes to group projects as well íV a skill that is essential in business.

For Matt, this has most certainly been the case.

He said: “I’m continually amazed by the depth and breadth of my peers’ experiences and knowledge. Every group I’ve worked with has taken a few sessions to form and normalise getting past initial teething pains.

“Often, I start with a perhaps stubborn view of the world, but through the discussions and the insights of others, I come away having learnt much more than just the course material.”

Planning how you will manage your time will boost your time management skills

As you learn to self-manage and work in an online setting, whilst balancing responsibilities outside of your studies, your time management and organisational skills will develop immensely.

Shuvai Madanhire is a HR and Compliance Director for Brands Consumer Group (BCG) íV a holding company of a world-class distributor for retail brands in central and southern Africa. She says the intensity of the Distance Learning MBA and need to juggle her work, family and studies has developed her time management skills and given her the ability to work better under pressure.

Make the most of experiential learning opportunities to enhance industry insights

Experiential learning, also known as hands-on learning or practical learning, is a valuable way to enhance your industry insights and skill development across the board.

Group work is integral to the Distance Learning MBA at Warwick Business School and enables students to draw on the wide-ranging experience of others within their cohort to tackle complex issues and assignments together. Students can consolidate, practise and develop their virtual teamwork, communication, critical thinking and creative thinking skills whilst innovative peer assessments help them to reflect on their learning so far and what steps to take next.

Master what it means to work remotely as well as study remotely

Learning remotely means being tasked with mastering a diverse array of platforms and applications. As more and more organisations move to a fully remote workforce or a hybrid model, a plethora of digital skills are needed to keep things running as efficiently as possible.

From real-time, interactive lectures, to archived sessions available on demand, global syndicate groups to digital conferences with industry professionals, business simulations to executive coaching, Distance Learning MBA students at Warwick Business School benefit from a bespoke online learning platform and first-class professional digital resources.

But online learning isn’t just about ensuring students’ technical and digital skills are up to scratch. Shuvai told us that studying the MBA online íV even more so in a pandemic íV has increased her capacity to cultivate essential soft skills.

She said: “Because Warwick Business School maintained the group working platforms and online residential weeks, I have learnt the skills of working with others remotely and developing working relationships in a very different manner.

“Working remotely has become the norm now and the course delivery over the past year has helped me to develop my skills as a leader to manage my team more effectively. I have learnt how to collaborate more effectively, adapt to working with people in different time zones and cultures and understand people in the absence of body language.

“My style of communication has had to adapt to ensure effectiveness, whilst remote delivery has meant that I have had to set clearer expectations and be clear and concise in my communication.”

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