Sharon Cole explains what it is like to virtually meet people from all over the world and the challenges of online group work on her MBA
I chose to do a distance learning programme as it gave me the flexibility I needed to be able to carry on working and so that I wouldn’t need to relocate. But distance learning does mean learning to learn in a new way. The online platform my.wbs is great but this only part of the learning experience. Being able to discuss with, and learn from, fellow students is just as important if you want to do well. There is also the peer to peer support from interaction with other students.
On the Distance learning MBA course you are put into study groups in my.wbs. You are assigned a tutor for your group, have your own forums and virtual classroom space. You can see the pictures of the students who will be part of your group, depending on how much information each has added to their profile you can also see where they are from, where they live and what they do. This was the first time that I realised just how global the Warwick MBA is, other students in my group were from Russia, Austria, Lebanon, Nigeria and closer to home, Essex.
We first met online using our study group classroom in my.wbs. It was a challenge at first getting used to the technology, and to each other but you just need to spend time, engaging with it and finding a way that works for you and your group. I thought about mastering the online group work as developing a skill, one that is increasingly important with the globalisation of the environment most of us work in. Technology now enables us to collaborate with colleagues and partners across the globe without having to physically be there, saving time, money and reducing our carbon footprint. Mastering the online group work with students across different continents and time zones (and with very different internet reliability) is something that will be invaluable experience to bring into my working practice.
In addition to the my.wbs platforms groups we have also made use of social media to keep in touch and ask each other questions, we also use it to let each other know when something has been added to my.wbs or to share other useful information we might have come across. But we also use social media to provide that important peer to peer support. When our first set of results came out there were many messages between the group of relief, congratulations and virtual hugs along with pictures of the beers that people were having to celebrate!