Critics of distance learning MBAs are quick to dismiss the programs, preferring the traditional format. However, Laura Vosper hardly gave them a moment’s thought when she enrolled at the Open University Business School’s MBA distance learning program.
Currently in the first year of three, Vosper is juggling studying and her full-time job as a marketing manager at LexisNexis, a business information publisher.
Coming from a non-traditional business background - she has a degree in English Literature and Spanish from Leeds University - Vosper felt it was a way “to formalise the learning... built up in other areas, such as HR and general management.”
Despite spending over a decade in marketing, Vosper still had areas on which she wanted to improve, such as accounting, corporate strategy and operations. As a result, her mentors also advised her that the MBA was a “good way to fill in these gaps quickly.”
With those factors in mind, Vosper applied to the AMBA accredited MBA program at OU Business School and also considered part-time programs at Henley Business School and Warwick Business School and executive programs at London Business School. She finally opted for OU for two reasons.
“The first was that it came highly recommended by an old boss, whose opinion I trusted,” she recalls.
“The second was that it was going to fit around my life most easily in terms of geography – I can easily make it to tutorials after work and don’t have to disrupt my work commitments too much.”
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“I think they’re [the course materials] excellent ...I’m also very impressed with the extra resources available online. There’s no shortage of reference and secondary material if you want it!” Says the marketing manager, who cites travelling and gardening as her interests.
“Now I’m halfway through my first year, I think I actually prefer this approach, as I have the chance to test, challenge and put into practice what I’m learning in real situations, as opposed to the safe environment of the classroom. This means I’m seeing the benefit of my learning right now, and also helps me to reject ideas or theories that don’t stand up in real life.”
Vosper admits that one of the advantages of a full-time program is “that you build up a stronger network” by being in constant contact with your cohort, but through tutor group meetings, the online forum and the residential school, she feels connected to her cohort too.
Vosper’s tips on distance learning programs
“Speak to your family and friends first, you need their support because you are going to have to change the way you spend your time.”
“You also need to be realistic about your ability to commit the time and effort it’s going to take. I don’t think anyone I’ve met is finding the course easy.”
“Modules, even ones with which you are familiar, still require you to put the hours into assignments so you’ve got to be organised and stay on top of the workload.”