Ten Tips for Warwick DLMBA starters (Updated)

Are you starting  the Warwick Distance Learning MBA this month? If so – congratulations on being accepted, and here are some tips for making the most of the course  (in no particular order).

This is an updated version of my previous post,
Ten tips for the Warwick DL MBA 

1. Participate in the live sessions

The wbsLive sessions (WBS’s live web conferencing platform) provide a great opportunity to interact directly with  tutors. Although some of the sessions focus on reviewing previously studied content, others make use of the technology with polls, whiteboard sessions, and lots of Q&A, providing more depth to the topics. In particular, I’ve  found most presenters to be very helpful when answering questions in these sessions, providing answers that are more detailed than those that can be written  online.

2. Choose a suitable way of taking notes

I have written previously about different ways of taking notes (see here and here), and would recommend that you think about what works best for you before progressing too far through the course, to avoid having to retrospectively write notes. Also, be willing to use different note-taking techniques for different modules – for example, a module like marketing may require a different approach to organisational behaviour, and modules assessed by exam are likely to need to a different approach to those being assessed by assignment.

3. Get involved with your study group

When you start the distance learning MBA you are allocated to a study group. I recommend that you take the time to meet the others in your group (virtually of course), especially in the first semester; even if you don’t want any support with the academic elements of the MBA, it is very helpful to have some people to speak with – otherwise just focussing on the textbooks and lesson notes can be quite isolating. Plus, it’s a requirement to work in your study groups at Warwick Week 1, so it helps if you already know each other.

4. Get involved with the discussion forums

Another component of the WBS MBA programme is the online discussion boards. For anyone not familiar with the concept, this allows you to pose a question or make a comment, then others (students and tutors) can post an answer or make their own comment, in their own time. Like the study groups and live sessions, these are another good way to have a more interactive experience than just textbooks and lesson notes, and when lots of people contribute it brings out a wealth of insights from different perspectives, significantly adding to the taught learning on the module.

5. Read around the topics

During my first year I concentrated on reading the textbooks and lecture notes, then completing the assignments and TMAs. However, during the second year I made a conscious effort to extend my learning experience outside the provided resources. This was typically using news and blog sites such as Ft.com and Harvard Business Review, although for some  modules I also loaned recommended reading texts from the library or bought additional books. As well as providing a different perspective on the content, this also allowed me to collect additional references in advance of the final assignments, which is encouraged rather than just relying on the textbook.

6. Plan your time and track your progress

I’m sure many other existing students would agree – the workload for the DLMBA is high, even though it is nicely segmented into ten lessons per module. WBS provide a suggested schedule on my.wbs, and I would recommend that you try to stick to this (or even get in front of it) – if you get more than a week or two behind it can be very difficult to catch up, putting a lot of pressure on you to complete the lessons at the end of the semester, and reducing the time available for writing the assignments or revising. I’ve written a blog post about this previously which has some suggestions, so I won’t repeat them here, but I’ll add that I found my study plan was a great motivational tool towards the end of each semester – it was very satisfying to see the end of the modules getting closer, and this encouraged me to keep going.

7. Complete the TMAs

I found the TMAs a really valuable part of most modules. The fact that they are optional makes it very tempting to skip over these time-consuming pieces of work; however, I can honestly say that they not only helped with learning the content, but also made a huge difference to how I approached the final assessments. This is especially important for modules that you find difficult – it is far better to realise you have the wrong approach with a TMA, than with a final assignment. They also provided a good indicator of how long needs to be allocated to complete the final assignment, which helped at the end of the module. I’ve written about some of the TMAs here and here.

The TMAs are also useful preparation for those modules that are assessed by an examination, as they provide practice for completing a written exam, which many of us had not done for over a decade. I’ve written more about this here.

8. Become familiar with the library databases

There were a few comments about the resources available in the library at the start of the course, but as this is a distance learning MBA I assumed these was designed more for on-campus students. However, I was wrong – the library has access to many online resources that are particularly useful during the course, such as company accounts’ analysis, industry overviews, online versions of textbooks, and published papers. These are invaluable when writing the final assignments, so it helps if you are used to navigating the library search tools beforehand.

Another offering from Warwick Library, which I was not aware of until my second year, is the ability for them to post books out to students in the UK or ROI. This was really helpful when writing the final assignments, particularly if you want to discuss an alternative perspective to that in the provided textbooks. Alternatively, Warwick Library is part of a scheme that allows students to use other libraries.

9. Make the most of Warwick Week

Warwick Week is a twice-yearly event where you have the opportunity to meet and interact with your study group, other peers, and lecturers. I personally found this week really useful, both for networking, and for the debates & discussions that took place during and after the workshops/exercises. To find out more about Warwick Week, see my blog posts about  WW1, WW2 and WW3.

10. Take time out from study

The DLMBA is a major undertaking, with lots of work as I mentioned previously, so as well as scheduling time to study its important to schedule time away from study. I usually tried to have one non-study day every week, but obviously this depends on your work and personal circumstances. However, remember that this is a three-year course, and although intense periods of study may be required (especially in the last month of each semester), balancing work, study and personal time will be essential to getting through the next three years.

 

Hopefully these tips have been useful, and if you want to know what’s coming up then have a look back over some of my previous blog posts. You can also subscribe to my blog, either using the ‘subscribe’ button on the left of the home page, or by following  me on Twitter.

Good luck – there’s a wealth of knowledge waiting for you – and make sure you enjoy the experience as well!

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16 thoughts on “Ten Tips for Warwick DLMBA starters (Updated)”

  1. Matt, great points (finished my WBS MBA in 2012) with one exception, an understanding and supportive spouse and family can make a world of difference in progress and completion of the program.

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    1. Hi Dave, I couldn’t agree more, and thanks for pointing this out – my spouse, family and friends have all been really supportive, which has helped me considerably over the last two years. I’d also extend tip #10 to include making sure you allocate proper time to spend with family, especially those who have had to sacrifice lots of time with you, to allow you to undertake the MBA.

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  2. Hi Matt, I am in the January 2014 intake and just wanted to say thanks for documenting your experiences. This is an invaluable resource for a newbie like me, so keep up the good work. Cheers, Larry

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    1. Thanks Larry – I’m really glad you’ve found this useful. Best of luck over the next three years – I’m sure you’ll find the course very enjoyable and interesting!

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  3. Matt, thanks again for your insights here – really helpful. Am a Jan 2014 intake and have just had my introduction. Much appreciated.

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  4. Thanks, Matt. Your points are really useful and will certainly guide most of us as we study for the Warwick DL MBA. Thanks, once again.

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  5. Hi Matt,
    Thank You for updating the blog. I have read your blogs and cannot stress enough, how incredibly reassuring it is to glean a clear and concise picture of the Learning journey, beforehand. Best Wishes, Jeena Chirakattu

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  6. Hi Matt, Thanks for the tips. One thing I am struggling is with a clear view of all the wbsLive sessions. I have scheduled tomorrow at 9:30am but couldn’t find this anywhere except in an email whilst enrolling. The calander view on my home page doesn’t show this or other relevant sessions to me Year 1 Semester 1 Jan intake. Do you have any tips on how I can see what’s upcomimg more clearly? Thanks for your help, Alkesh

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    1. Hi Alkesh. I’m not sure why the calendar view on my.wbs isn’t showing the sessions – but if you contact WBS they should be able to get someone to look into this for you.

      In terms of upcoming activities, a nice feature on my.wbs is the ability to show the wbsLive sessions, along with other events such as assignment deadlines, in your main calendar (eg. Outlook, Gmail, iPhone, etc). To do this, go to the Profile option in my.wbs (top-right corner), and select ‘RSS & iCal Feeds’. (However, this might not work until the above issue is fixed).

      Cheers, Matt

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  7. Hi Matt!

    Thank you for your blog post! I am applying for the June 2015 intake. I am so excited and nervous at the same time. Your posts has reassured me that the DLMBA is a good choice for me. I hope I get accepted. I am submitting my application next week. Wish me luck!

    Best,
    Shamira

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  8. Matt!

    Great to see all these amazing posts about the DLMBA from Warwick. I’ve applied for January 2015 start and I’m hoping to get a reply soon.

    In the mean time, I have some questions:
    – How many hours a week would you put into your MBA? I’m working full time an plan on continuing, but I would just like to know what I’m in for.
    – How many hours of that are time – dependent? Did you find that these hours interfered with work hours?

    Glad to see your program come to a close! Im just starting but I’m pumped for the Learing experience!

    Mat

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    1. Hi Mat,

      Most of the course participants are (I believe) full time, so you should be in good company. I usually advise around 15-20 hours / week, depending on whether you just want to get through the content, or if you are wanting to read around the subjects (eg. recommended reading, following the news, etc). Bear in mind though that you’ll probably need to work a few more hours towards the end of each semester (May-Jun, Nov-Dec) – I had to put in 25 hours over a couple of weeks to make sure I was happy with my assignments/revision.

      Most of the hours are non-time-dependant; the only things that are timed are:
      – 3-5 wbsLive sessions per module, which are usually run between 6pm and 9pm UK time. However, these are recorded so if you can’t make them you can review afterwards (although obviously you lose the opportunity to ask questions and engage in the interactive components).
      – Warwick Week – this is 3-5 days in-person, twice a day
      – Face-to-face module(s) – one is compulsory, although you can do more (for an extra charge)
      – Exams – for me these were only at the end of semester 2

      Hope this helps – good luck with your application, I’m sure you will enjoy it (despite the hours!)

      Cheers,

      Matt

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  9. Thanks Matt for the blog. Even though I received the offer about a week ago, I am a little nervous about not having any business background (I am an engineer by training and have been working in the trading department of my company). Any advise?

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    1. Hi Winnie, congratulations on receiving an offer to undertake the Warwick MBA. I can understand your nervousness and expect it will be shared by many other people starting the course – its completely normal when embarking on an course of this scale, especially when you don’t have a background in business. My suggestion would be to use the time before you start to expose yourself to different aspects of business – this could include reading business news sites and journals (eg. Financial Times, Harvard Business Review) and trying to become more involved or aware of the business-side of where you work (you could even ask to shadow individuals in other departments for a day if you have a supportive employer). I have had a number of potential students contact me as well asking for guidance on pre-reading; if you want some links send me a message using the ‘Contact Me’ box at the top of the page.

      Best of luck,

      Matt

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