Though Clara Cedeno is an MBA student at the Syracuse University Whitman School of Management, her classmates aren’t just New York state residents – far from it, in fact.
That’s because the 43-year-old consultant is enrolled in the online MBA@Syracuse program. Students live around the world – from Dubai to Alaska – and work in a range of professions. They interact through discussion boards and videoconferencing, with additional opportunities to connect in person.
“Everybody comes from a different place with a different experience,” says the Fayetteville, New York, resident. “That could actually enhance your own learning.”
Experts say prospective online MBA students should expect geographic and professional diversity among their classmates. Most students already have several years of work experience under their belts and either hope to advance to a management role or switch fields entirely to business.
[Discover how online learning can help adults switch careers.]
“Students can cull from a broader range of peer knowledge and experiences,” says Doreen Shanahan, a marketing professor at the Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business, which offers an online MBA.
Aside from regular virtual interaction during class, here are five things students typically gain from their classmates in an online MBA program.
1. Insight from various professions: Given their different career goals, online MBA students’ typically work across disciplines – including business but also in specialties ranging from health care to information technology.
That professional diversity teaches students to analyze business problems in unique ways, says Matt Bullion, a Graziadio online student and California-based brand marketing manager.
“Myself as a sales and marketing guy – I may have one way of approaching a problem,” he says. “But a medical doctor might come at it from a completely different perspective.”
2. Perspectives from different business cultures: Because online MBA students might live or regularly travel during their program, they provide insight into how businesses function across the country and overseas, experts say.
That’s different from many on-ground programs, where “they’re not actually currently enmeshed in Silicon Valley, or Miami, or the business world of New York, or whatever it may be,” while also pursuing an education far away, says Bob Monroe, director of the hybrid MBA program at the Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business.
Monroe says current part-time, hybrid MBA students in Tepper’s program reside in 25 states with a few living abroad.
[Explore what to expect in a top online MBA program.]
“When they’re working in a foreign country, the rules, the regulations are so different, and they’re working under different conditions and situations – that brings a different perspective on how business is conducted in other places,” says Dilip Jain, a physician who earned an MBA partially online from the University of Massachusetts—Amherst Isenberg School of Management.
3. Broad business networking opportunities: The fact that online MBA students live and work worldwide opens up opportunities for networking nationally and internationally – a contrast with the experience of on-ground MBA students, where classmates generally live locally.
Nick Alaga, a Calfornia-based student in the MBA@Syracuse program, says he connected with a classmate about a job opening on the East Coast, for instance.
Given the experience and connections that working online MBA students already have, these programs allow for effective networking across fields within business.
“The folks that we have working in tech jobs in Silicon Valley can actually talk with the people doing finance jobs in Boston and people doing operations jobs in Denver,” says Monroe from Tepper.
4. Chances to build relationships in person: In addition to live course components requiring students to virtually attend class at a specific time, many online MBA programs also have on-campus requirements and opportunities to explore businesses by traveling internationally. These allow online students to interact face to face.
During CMU Tepper’s regular “access weekends” on its main and satellite campuses, online students together attend networking sessions, among other activities. And in the MBA@Syracuse program, Cedeno traveled to Dublin, Ireland for a residency to learn about business in the country.
“You actually get to meet a lot of people you see on camera in person,” Cedeno says. “You really establish a connection.”
[Consider an online MBA program with a residency component.]
5. Experience with virtual collaboration: Experts say many online MBA programs require students to solve larger business problems through virtual group assignments – similar to a workplace environment.
Bullion, the Pepperdine student, says he completed a five-person team project in his corporate finance class on a publicly traded company’s free cash flows. He and his team members communicated via videoconferencing and phone.
“We really do get to know each other,” he says. “I’ve made some great friends in this program already.”
source : usnews.com