Friday, March 21, 2014

Real Networking & Leadership Development for Online MBA Students

There’s a reason why Kelley Direct brings entire cohorts of online MBA and masters students together on the Bloomington campus several times a year. It’s the same reason why 1 entire lecture out of the 9 lectures we have during our first in-residence week on the Bloomington campus is all about networking. Shaun Heneghan’s networking session was one of the many memorable things at Connect Week, and also part of the reason why I started looking at networking differently. Here’s a slide from his presentation showing how he defines networking:
Kelley Direct staff and faculty appear to be operating with the same principle – they genuinely care about our success. The school wants to help us take advantage of the fact that my classmates and I signed up to share two to three years of our lives with highly talented, intelligent and motivated people living all over the world. They really do everything they can to ensure that we don’t squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity including inviting the students back to campus for a second, week-long in-residence week, providing study abroad opportunities in emerging markets where students work with real businesses and once again make presentations to business owners. They support and fund student clubs to help us build closer bonds to classmates with similar interests, and facilitating online networking via LinkedIn and social media. They even travel all over the U.S. throughout the year to host cocktail receptions for students, alumni and prospective students so that we have more reason to come together.

How Online MBA Students Network

Even though we are an online program, we have so many opportunities to build real, lasting relationships with our classmates. Sure we don’t see these people every day like we may have in a traditional program, but we still went through two grueling case competitions that forced us to work together for hours at a time and present in front of professors and company executives while they judged our slides and delivery against those of our peers. We still have group assignments in most of our classes that require us to get on the phone or on Google Hangouts every week to discuss how to solve a business case or how to decide how much to invest in marketing versus R&D in a business strategy simulation to maximize ROE and share price (that CAPSIM simulation was pretty cool).

Not only does this help us increase our networks, but it also teaches us practical skills that we can directly apply to the global workplace. GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect and Google Hangouts exist because there is a real need for virtual meetings. One of the managers I worked for at a previous job lived in Costa Rica and I only met him twice in-person during my time at the company. Half my team was in a different city several hours away in my last job so we met via web conference every week. That’s the reality of the workplace. Online learning is actually benefiting my classmates and me by forcing us to learn how to manage teams and projects virtually.

Why You Should Attend a Top Ranked Online MBA Program

So when someone says something like this about online programs on a discussion forum for MBA hopefuls: 
It makes me feel very fortunate that I chose a program that takes an active role in our networking and leadership skills development, who gives their online students the same access to career services as their full-time students, and whose online students graduate with the same salaries as their fellow Kelleys in the top 15 ranked full-time MBA program.

Both the school and the students care. That is what you can expect from a top ranked MBA program. The fact that my MBA is online just means that I have to work a little bit harder to make that connection with my classmates, and I’m happy to do so. So many of my classmates are willing to do so as well. We made time to host an in-person marketing conference that included company visits, guest speakers, networking dinners and informal nights out in the city.

We make time to host virtual club meetings and webinars for our fellow online students. We make time to mentor new students and help them meet others in the program via our Student Leadership Association. We make ourselves available to speak with and meet prospective students who are thinking about joining our program.

That’s the type of student body Kelley Direct has actively recruited and continues to attract.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Come see us and talk to our other online MBA students and alumni. We’re just getting started with our national networking tour for 2014. Houston is up next:

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