As you decide which school or program to enroll in to get your MBA, there are several questions you should ask yourself. First, you’ll have to decide if an online program is right for you. Then comes the decision of where to go – the online format allows you to pick the school that suits your wants and needs without concern for geographic location. There are many programs out there, but if you do some research and think about your own learning style, you can prepare yourself to make the right decision about which school to attend and how best to get your degree.
Do I have the discipline required to learn online?
Online learning gives you a great deal of flexibility that you don’t have in a traditional school setting. But with that flexibility comes a need to be disciplined enough to complete tasks on your own. Self-motivation is a major asset for online learners, and you should be honest with yourself when considering your abilities.
There are plenty of options for interaction with your teacher as well as fellow students, but you must be able to stay on task and complete assignments on your own. Of course the same is true with traditional learning, but arguably one needs to be more organized and schedule-oriented when taking classes online.
Who will my instructors be?
The quality of an education often depends on the instructors teaching the material. As you peruse different programs, find out about the instructors who will be teaching the online classes.
Find out if the same teachers who instruct in the school’s traditional classes will be teaching the online classes. Are they mostly adjunct professors, associate professors or tenured professors?
Try to talk to students in the online program of the school you are interested in and find out how their experience has been with the teachers. There is nothing wrong with calling your school to talk to people who know about the online program and asking them any questions you might have about the instructors of the program.
What services are available for me?
You want to attend a school that sees its online program as an equal to its traditional programs. Find out if you will have the same resources as students who attend the school locally.
Will you have access to the school’s online library? Are you able to access the school’s writing center or equivalent if you need help with assignments or papers?
Most importantly, make sure you will have access to the career resources center. Will they be able to help you find jobs upon completion of the program? If your school has career fairs, make sure you are able to attend or able to set up interviews from a distance.
Do I have the technology to be successful in the program?
Online MBA programs rely heavily on digital communication and virtual interaction. Make sure your computer is up to date and see what programs you will be required to have to complete the coursework.
It should go without saying that you’ll need a reliable internet connection, but also make sure the lecture times will work for you. Make sure your job or other responsibilities will give you the time you need to do well in the classes.
Find out how much time you’ll be required to spend in synchronous learning situations, like lectures or group meetings. Many programs blend real-time classwork with work you can do at any time. Be prepared for the hours you’ll need to be available for scheduled lectures or virtual face time with instructors.
How much will I interact with my instructors and peers?
Getting an MBA online will no doubt give you the knowledge and technical content needed to be successful in your future career, but don’t underestimate the value of making connections with your fellow students. Your program should allow you to communicate with others in your program and you should be able to use them as resources when you need help with studying.
Find out how and when you will be able to communicate with your instructor. When will he or she be available to respond to emails? Will there be virtual office hours that work with your existing schedule? Good online MBA programs give you access to both the instructor and your fellow virtual classmates to enhance your learning.
Getting an online MBA is a great option for many students looking for the flexibility of remote learning. But make sure to ask yourself the important questions to make sure a school’s online program is a good fit for you.
Am I ready to make the investment?
While it is important to consider the various factors in getting an online MBA, the main question to ask is whether you are ready to make the investment in your career.
As J. Gerald Suarez, professor of the practice in systems thinking and design and a fellow of the Center for Leadership Innovation and Change at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, writes in the Washington Post,
“Workers in all fields of endeavor struggle between what they really want to become and what they are currently doing. They put up with a job that doesn’t satisfy and or dread about new opportunities and conditions they can’t stand, and rationalize their circumstances. It becomes easy to assign accountability and place blame outside of themselves, but the real answer to the malaise lies within.”
If you are ready to trade in your current career malaise for a more rewarding future, an online MBA may be exactly the solution you need.