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!