Students who pursue an online MBA degree, as opposed to the on-campus option, do so for a number of reasons. One reason is that those who don’t live close enough to a campus like the University of Alabama at Birmingham to physically attend class can still earn a top-flight education. Flexibility is another reason why students may choose the online path to a Master of Business Administration degree. Time is especially important for learners with families, active careers, and other obligations. An online degree lets them minimize time spent on ancillary activities like commuting, and instead allows them to learn at their own pace in a program designed to address their needs.
However, students who choose an online MBA degree program may be concerned about factors like building a network. Can an online degree experience help students build valuable relationships in their chosen field? Indeed it can. To understand why, consider how the following MBA networking tips are just as applicable to the online experience as to in-person educational and professional contexts.
How to network as an online MBA student
While online students don’t physically sit next to each other in class or meet in the library to craft group projects, they have many opportunities to develop mutually beneficial bonds with fellow learners. There are a number of avenues through which students can get to know one another and build relationships, whether it’s studying, collaborating, or comparing notes.
Email, chat, and messaging
Official communication channels are a direct way to develop peer and professional relationships. Email is one of the most standard and well-established options available to online MBA students at UAB. Communicating with fellow students and professors can lead to the foundation of powerful, ongoing relationships. Newer tools, such as online discussion forum programs operated by educational institutions and messaging programs students use to collaborate outside of official class or university contexts, are also commonly used. Initially starting relationships through emails and discussion forums, then continuing to maintain them through texts, group messaging tools like WhatsApp and Slack, and personal email accounts that exist long after graduation, is an effective long-term networking strategy.
U.S. News & World Report points out the importance of connecting on a personal and professional level. While the focus for students is working together on a variety of study, homework, and project opportunities, the art of business networking involves a personal element as well. Occasional discussions about personal life, whether about goals for professional growth after graduation or what fellow students did over the weekend, helps to craft deeper, more complete relationships.
Tools like email, chat, and messaging also help students work together outside of specific group projects. There are many opportunities to study for exams and discuss class material in a collaborative yet casual atmosphere. Many tools, from group texts to video chats, can aid learners as they progress through their coursework and form bonds that may be drawn upon after graduation for mutual benefit. Outreach outside of official projects and discussion boards can foster long-lasting professional relationships.
There are plenty of social networks that offer the opportunity to stay in touch with fellow students, both during educational careers and after earning online MBA degrees. Networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can serve as a way to keep in touch, but LinkedIn is especially useful for professional networking. With a firm focus on employment and, to a lesser extent, education, LinkedIn features employment information that makes it easy to see if someone works in a particular location or for a specific company that is of particular interest. It’s still possible to have personal conversations through LinkedIn’s messaging feature, but the emphasis on professional considerations makes it that much more direct for networking needs.
Make sure to participate fully
An MBA program is fertile ground for connecting with like-minded students who have relevant interests in many different areas of business management. However, you can only develop strong bonds if you make it a point to regularly interact with fellow students and continue to do so after graduation. Knowing how frequently to reach out is often a matter of the specifics of each relationship, but an occasional message to check in or share news about a topic a fellow student has expressed an interest in can only help maintain the connection. The classmate you make an effort to stay connected with after graduation could be the same person who offers valuable information about a new job opening at his or her company or shares details about an exciting new development in your specific field of interest.
Earning an MBA online with UAB
The experience of earning an online MBA degree can feel quite different from an on-campus education. However, the entire experience, ranging from the quality of the instruction provided to the opportunities for networking, are just as powerful as they are for students who choose to learn on campus. To learn more about what UAB has to offer MBA students, speak with an academic advisor today.