I am now at the point in the MBA course where I have to choose my electives for next year. Before I discuss the elective selection process, here’s a quick summary of the structure of the course.
Warwick Distance Learning MBA Structure
The Warwick MBA requires completion of 13 modules (7 core and 6 electives) plus a project or dissertation. The standard path for most students (including myself) is as follows:
- Semester 1 (Year 1, January – June)
- Economics of the Business Environment
- Accounting and Financial Management
- Organisational Behaviour
- Semester 2 (Year 1, July – December)
- Modelling and Analysis for Management
- Operations Management
- Semester 3 (Year 2, January – June)
- 3 electives
- Semester 4 (Year 2, July – December)
- Strategic Advantage
- 2 electives
- Semester 5 (Year 3, January – June)
- 1 elective
Some of the core modules can also be taken in a face-to-face format, such as Organisational Behaviour (in Hong Kong), Marketing (in Rome) and Strategic Analysis (in Boston).
Choosing my electives
With over thirty different electives to choose from (look here to see the full list), there is plenty of choice to suit individual areas of interest and experience. However, making the choice was a lot harder than I expected – I want to do almost twenty! To help make a decision, I’ve considered each of the modules against three criteria:
- Relevance – Depending on the reason for pursuing an MBA, this can be a key factor when choosing the electives. For example, if you plan to follow a career in finance/accounting (and don’t have a relevant qualification already), then it would probably be a good idea to select modules such as ‘Advanced Corporate Finance’ and ‘Management Accounting’, whereas if you plan to start a new business then ‘Entrepreneurship & New Venture Creation’ might be really useful. In my case I’m keen to get a broad understanding of all areas of management, so expect to take a broad range of modules rather than focussing in one specific area. However, one module that I think is quite relevant to the role I am in now is ‘Management of Change’, so I expect that to be in my shortlist.
- Pre-existing knowledge – If you are already familiar with the subject for a module then it will be easier to digest the content and get involved in the discussions. However, this does mean that the incremental learning from that module might be less, which is one of the main reasons I wanted to pursue an MBA. If I had the luxury of time to invest in learning then I would probably select 6 electives that I had minimal knowledge of already, with the aim of maximising the learning opportunity. However, given the aggressive study schedule for the distance learning MBA, I think I will probably choose a few modules that I have little pre-existing knowledge of, combined with a few modules for which I have a reasonable understanding, or expect to be able to understand quite quickly.
- Interest – The final criteria I have assessed is the level of interest I have in each module. If I find a module interesting, I will enjoy learning about the topics, am likely to absorb more of the content, and will take interest in aspects of that module that I see in real-life. Not only will this improve my chances of achieving a reasonable grade, but it will also keep me motivated when there is a high workload. Given that this is a broad qualification it is practical to do this, as the choice of elective modules does not affect my ability to complete the course (although still taking into consideration point 1).
In addition to choosing the electives I want to pursue, I also need to consider the delivery format for each of them. The Warwick distance learning MBA offers four formats:
- Blended – This is the format used for all the core modules (unless student opt to take them face-to-face), which is through the traditional distance-learning approach, along with a day at Warwick Week (in September 2013 for electives).
- Online – This is very similar to the Blended delivery model, but without the Warwick Week day. These modules are run completely through distance-learning, with no direct interaction with other students and lecturers, except for on the discussion forums.
- Face to face – A significant number of modules are available in a face-to-face delivery format. This is where textbooks are sent out to read 4 weeks before a 5-day intensive residential on campus at the University of Warwick, followed by an assessment to be submitted 4 weeks later. This will be a great opportunity to interact directly with lecturers and other colleagues, and probably present more opportunities for discussion and debate about the module topics.
- International – This is the same format as face-to-face, but held at a location outside of the UK. This will be useful for students located in those countries, and also for those who would like to have experience of another country and culture.
One of the features I liked of the Warwick Distance Learning MBA is that we are obliged to participate in one face-to-face module, either in the UK or in another country. I’m really looking forward to this, and plan to choose carefully which module I want to take advantage of the interaction opportunities on, although we can also sign up to further face-to-face modules for an additional fee if appropriate.
WBS Selection Tool
Warwick Business School have developed an online interface through which we can choose our modules. As well as providing details of each module and how it is assessed, the tool also includes a scheduling component which displays graphically when and how the modules will be run, highlighting both conflicts of classes and also weeks where there may be a high workload. This will be really helpful when it comes to both checking and submitting the modules I wish to sign up for.
I hope this has offered a good insight into the elective selection process for those of you considering pursuing an MBA at Warwick, and for those students in my cohort I hope the elective selection points I mentioned have been of use. I’ve almost decided on my final electives now, and will share my choices in a future blog post.