I was recently asked why I had chosen a distance learning MBA course instead of an executive MBA, so thought I would share my decision-making process here. For those who aren’t aware, there are three main approaches to studying for an MBA:
- Full-time – usually lasting one year, this wasn’t an option I considered as I didn’t want to (and couldn’t financially afford to) give up work
- Executive – usually lasting three years, this involves attending University either on a weekly basis (eg. weekend, specific evenings every week), or in regular study blocks (eg. 4-5 days every 6-8 weeks)
- Distance Learning – usually lasting three years (but can be extended to five), this involves studying from home, attending online seminars on a regular basis (eg. weekly), and then for some Universities, visiting the campus once or twice a year for lectures, group exercises, networking, and other activities
Below I have summarised the advantages and disadvantages that I identified for the executive and distance-learning MBA approaches.
- In-person – given that the lectures are delivered using the traditional in-person format, this provides lots of opportunities for discussion and debate, both with the lecturer, and also with other students
- Fixed-time – as the classes are scheduled for a specific time, they can be entered into my diary at the start of the course, and other commitments can be planned around these
- Social – the in-person nature of the course will make it easy to network and build relationships with other students
- Time commitment – as an executive MBA has a fixed time commitment, this will require allocating a specific time/day every week to study (in addition to work commitments), or taking time out of work on a regular basis (which either consumes most/all of an annual leave allowance, or needs sponsorship from your employer)
- Flexibility – as most of the content is delivered through textbooks or online resources, you are able to develop a schedule around your personal and work commitments, and can adjust this as needed to respond to unplanned events or ‘busy periods’
- Cohort diversity – as students are not required to visit the campus regularly, this encourages a much larger cohort with students from many different industries, countries and cultures
- Self-paced – the on-demand nature of the content delivery means that difficult topics can be repeated or reviewed at your own pace (and easier topics can be reviewed quickly), whereas in-person lectures require you to learn at the speed that the lecturer is covering the topics
- Isolation – although technology combined with occasional physical meetings can reduce this, the lack of in-person contact with other students can make it difficult to stay motivated, engage in discussions on topics, and get support in your studies when needed
- Self-discipline – although an on-demand approach to studying offers flexibility, it also means that students must be disciplined enough to allocate time to study, otherwise there is a strong possibility that they will drop behind on the content
My choice – Distance Learning MBA
I was comfortable that both approaches would meet my objectives for studying for an MBA, so my decision was based on which would give me the best experience and allow me to manage the impact on my personal and work life.
Originally I intended to pursue an executive MBA, but when I considered the amount of time to be taken out of work, combined with a planned role change at work which would increase the amount of travel and time away from home, I decided that the distance learning option would be most suitable. I was also interested in hearing the viewpoints of a large, diverse group of students – which has already proven valuable after only one month of study. I was not overly concerned with the disadvantages of this mode of studying, as I currently work from home for a large proportion of my week, so am used to working in a ‘virtual’ manner and collaborating with colleagues using technology. In addition, the Warwick MBA provides a number of opportunities to reduce any isolation, ranging from small-numbered study groups through to the ‘Warwick Week‘, which is a bi-annual in-person meeting where all students meet in Warwick for lectures, group exercises and networking.
If you want to know more about the different approaches to studying for an MBA at Warwick, please click here.
I hope this has been interesting to read – and for anyone making a similar decision now, please feel free to ask any questions below.