Tuesday, June 23, 2015

5 Ways Online MBA Students Can Enhance their Virtual Classroom Experience

First-year online MBA student and management consultant Sri Chatterjee tweeted this picture recently:

She was attending a live Economics lecture online on-board a flight taking her back home to Chicago. This of course excited her professor, Dr. Steven Kreft, who reached out to share his thoughts:

“There is high opportunity cost when attending a lecture from a flight; you could be sleeping, reading, catching up on work, get disconnected from the world and take a break, but Sri chose to pay for WiFi and attend lecture. That shows that she’s getting value out of class, and committed to learning.”

Were you expecting something else from an econ professor? All joking aside, it was these types of real-world applications and practical examples that peaked Sri’s interest in economics enough to make her want to attend class on a flight – even though the lectures are recorded an available to watch at a more convenient time:

“Economics did not come easily for me, but the discussion forums in Professor Kreft’s class have helped make the subject more interesting and relatable. Attending class enables me to interact with Professor Kreft and my classmates in real-time, so I try to make it every week.
As a consultant, I travel to my client in Boston on Mondays and return on Thursdays. Because our lectures were on Thursday evenings, I tried to schedule my flights before or after class. Attending class from the Starbucks at the airport was not uncommon. This particular time my flight was during the class time, so I just tried to login from the air and it thankfully it worked!”

We had a chance to speak with both Professor Kreft and Sri about what makes for a good online experience. Here are their suggestions:

What can students do to enhance the online classroom experience?

1) Login early and start informal conversations with classmates before lecture. When students come in and start small talk it feels just like an in-person classroom. 

Sri was good at initiating that in our class and letting her personality show. You have to do that more when you’re not in front of your classmates every day.

2) Ask questions. Often times, your classmates will have the same questions. Those who cannot attend lecture live will also benefit from this. Of course we answer questions over email, but one of the benefits of attending live is the opportunity to get immediate feedback.

One thing I would add: it helps when a student shows they have taken the time to attempt the problem or assignment before coming with questions. Sri did a good job sharing her thought process and often identified exactly where she was making the mistake whenever she came to me with a question.

3) Share related information about projects from your work and industry. The theory and models from the course become more clear and concrete when students understand how they can be applied in specific industries.

Sri: This is how economics clicked for me and started becoming more interesting. I reached out to Professor Kreft whenever I was able to approach something from an economists’ viewpoint.

4) Bring current events to the discussion. If you saw something on the news that is relevant to the course, share it with everyone.

I remember Sri sent me a news article about airline profitability the week after we had discussed that topic in class. Doing that shows the professor you’re engaged and interested in the material.

5) Make an effort to connect with people. In an online MBA program, it’s on the individuals to take initiative and reach out. We always start with a discussion forum where everyone introduces themselves. Then every so often you’ll get the student who will go beyond that and show that it’s possible to make meaningful relationships in an online environment.

Sri made the effort to learn about my wife (also a Kelley economics professor) and my interests and sent us articles and information that would be meaningful to us. It’s those types of things that remove the distance in an online program.

About Professor Steven Kreft

Steven F. Kreft is Clinical Associate Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at the Kelley School of Business. Professor Kreft holds a B.S. degree (1999) in Economics from Florida Southern College and also M.A. (2002) and Ph.D. (2003) degrees in Economics from West Virginia University. Professor Kreft’s research interests are in Public Economics, Sustainability, Corporate Social Strategy, Non-Market Risks, and Entrepreneurship and he has published articles in relevant journals in the area. Professor Kreft teaches classes on Managerial Economics, Corporate Social Strategy, Non-Market Risk, and Sustainable Enterprise in both the undergraduate business and M.B.A. programs.

About Srimoyee (Sri) Chatterjee

Sri Chatterjee is a management consultant for KPMG in Chicago. She attended the Kelley School for her undergraduate and graduate studies, earning Bachelors degrees in Finance, International Business and Marketing, and a Master’s in Management Information Systems. She is currently pursuing her MBA in the KelleyDirect program

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