I am often emailed with questions about the different learning resources used on the Warwick Distance Learning MBA course, so for those considering applying to Warwick, here’s an overview of the resources that are currently available.
In lieu of face-to-face lectures, the initial source of content for all the modules is through a set of online lectures accessed from the eLearning environment, my.wbs. Each module is split into ten ‘lessons’, each of which has usually between 3 and 10 different lectures. The lectures include a combination of text, pictures, audio clips and videos, and range from half a page to many pages long. Some videos show external content from the Internet, whereas others are delivered by lecturers and show either the slides that they talk through, a video of the lecturer themselves, or a whiteboard that the lecturer is annotating whilst speaking. Personally I find the latter two approaches more engaging – I think video can deliver a much more effective learning experience, and it has been good to see an increased use of video as the course has progressed. (For those students who don’t have a reliable internet connection, videos can be downloaded first and then watched later.)
One nice feature for the my.wbs lectures is the ability to download the content either in PDF format, or to an eReader – allowing content to be easily accessed offline, and if students prefer they can print all the lectures to read away from a computer.
Finally, some lessons also have a self-assessment test at the end, which is usually a multiple-choice assessment which you can repeat as required; the results are not stored, but this is a useful way to validate your understanding of the course.
Textbooks & Pre-Reading
Prior to starting each module, WBS usually post out one or two textbooks to complement the online lectures. Each lesson starts by providing the recommended ‘set reading’ for that lesson, and sometimes there will be additional reading in the form of books or papers that can be downloaded as PDF files from Warwick University library. Some modules attempt to include almost all the content from the textbook in the pre-reading for the ten lessons, whereas others just reference specific chapters or portions of chapters.
Electronic textbook resources
Depending on the textbook that has been chosen, there is sometimes access to an online site for that book. This includes the ability to do one or more of the following
- download the full book to an eReader
- read the book online through a browser
- read the book online through a browser, and view additional content at specific parts of the text (eg. watch videos, read case studies, or use interactive diagrams)
- access additional study materials generic to lessons
- complete quizzes and self-assessments relating to the textbook content
Personally I still prefer to read the textbooks in print rather than online, as it gives me a break from being sat at a computer. However, having access to an electronic version of the books is useful, especially when travelling so you don’t have to carry around lots of textbooks. The additional materials are also quite useful – the online content for the Marketing textbook had some very interesting video case studies that showed real-life examples of some of the concepts being taught.
Warwick Business School uses a solution called wbsLive to deliver live lectures, which allows students to join an audio & video conference with lecturers and other students, see slides and online whiteboards, and interact using either text chat or audio. Sometimes these lectures are mainly an opportunity for the lecturer to talk through some slides and then answer questions, whereas other lecturers take advantage of the opportunity to interact live with students, and use these sessions to explain case studies, split into breakout rooms to discuss topics in small groups, and also get student feedback throughout presented content.
For those students who are unable to attend at the ‘live’ time (inevitable given the global spread of those on the course), the sessions are recorded and can be played back at a later date/time.
Another feature of the WBS eLearning environment is discussion forums. There are four main areas where students and lecturers can post questions online:
- A general forum exists where everyone in the cohort can raise general questions and discuss issues not related to the individual modules.
- A set of forums exist for each module, where everyone studying that module can discuss aspects of the module.
- Most online lectures have a ‘comments’ area, which allows students to discuss the topics covered in that lecture in detail.
- All students are allocated to a ‘study group’ of around 10 individuals at the start of the course, and there is a dedicated forum for each study group to interact and support each other in a more closed environment.
Some discussion forums are more active than others, and in some modules the lecturers do a great job of posing questions to start discussions on the lesson content, or related events that are taking place in real-life businesses.
In addition to the distance learning aspects of this course, the Warwick Distance Learning MBA also requires that everyone attends ‘Warwick Week’ at least three times during the course (usually semesters 1, 2 and 4). This is a residential event in Warwick, UK, where all the students meet for module lectures, networking events, and supplementary activities such as leadership days. For more information about these weeks, see my previous two posts here and here.
Real-time vs. In your own time
Another related question that I get asked is how much of the course is fixed in terms of times, days or weeks, and how much of the studying can be completed in your own time. Generally, students can study at their own pace and in their own time; a suggested week-by-week schedule is provided as a guideline, but this does not have to be followed rigidly.
For my cohort (although I believe it is the same for future cohorts), the five time-specific activities are:
- Live lectures – these usually take place early evenings on a weekday or early Saturday morning (all UK time), although occasionally they are scheduled at other times of the day to give students in other countries more opportunity to attend. However, as mentioned above, if you cannot attend at the given time, the sessions are recorded for you to play back at a later date.
- TMAs – a submission date is provided for TMAs (Tutor Marked Assignments); some modules have these distributed throughout the semester, whereas others just require them to be submitted in sufficient time for tutors to provide feedback that can be used for the assessment.
- Warwick Week – this is a 3 to 5-day residential that takes place in the middle of semesters 1, 2 and 4. Attendance at Warwick Week is required for some modules.
- Examinations – these take place at the end of semester 2 for three of the compulsory modules, and then at the end of semesters 3, 4 and 5 if any of the electives are assessed by examination (although none of mine are).
- One face-to-face module – the DLMBA requires one module to be taken face-to-face, and the dates for this will depend on which module you choose, although it will probably be in semesters 3 to 5. Additional modules can be taken face-to-face (at additional cost), but this is completely optional.
One final point to mention is that you are allocated into study groups at the start of the course, with around 5-10 co-students. Your study group may decide to meet online at a regular time each week, although usually the study groups are set up with groups of people from the same/similar timezone, to make meeting up a lot easier.
Hopefully this is useful for those of you considering applying to Warwick, or have recently been accepted and start in a few months. Please feel free to ask any additional questions in the comments area below.