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5 Questions to Ask About Networking in Online MBAs

Whether employers, classmates, faculty or alumni, connections are crucial in landing a job.
That’s why, experts say, prospective online MBA students need to factor networking opportunities into their decision of where to enroll.
“The education is absolutely critical, but coming away with a strong network and some of the professional relationships that you develop in the MBA program is certainly very important as well,” says 34-year-old Dustan Atkinson, an online student at the University of Florida Hough Graduate School of Business.
Before applying, the Atlanta resident asked Hough staff what types of opportunities were available, he says. He was impressed, he says, at how often students networked at in-person events and during classes.
Business is a field where connections are an essential part of the job search, experts say. And online students cite career aspirations as their primary motivator for pursuing a degree, one 2016 survey found.
“In an online program, students are going to be forced to take an active role in their networking in a way that’s a little bit different from sort of the more passive everyday networking that happens when you’re physically connected and in class with other students,” says John Gresley, assistant dean and director of UF’s MBA program.
Students might research networking opportunities in potential online programs by contacting a career center, browsing websites or speaking with current and past students. In the process, here are five questions experts suggest they ask.
1. How often do students in the online program interact? Much of the networking in online MBA programs takes place in the virtual classroom, experts say, particularly during group projects. Students might communicate on discussion boards and through videoconferencing.
“Typically, people conceive of online programs in the learning community to rather be individually focused. But in order for it to be effective in enabling students to achieve their career objectives, it needs to be a community,” says Charla Griffy-Brown, a professor of information systems and technology management at the Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business, which has an online MBA program.
Many of these programs also have in-person residency requirements where students engage face to face. That’s the case at the Indiana University—Bloomington Kelley School of Business, where online students congregate on campus for two one-week periods throughout the program.
2. Who are the typical students in the program? To gauge the quality of a program’s network, prospective online MBA students can also look into the types of students who enroll: their professional backgrounds and industries, for instance, and where they’re based, says Joan Brett, associate dean of graduate programs at the Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business, which offers an online MBA.
“When you compare an online program to, let’s say, an evening or weekend, you’re going to have way more diversity,” she says. “It’s important because one of the things we tell students, and that students also find, is that one of the biggest networking opportunities are with students in their class.”
3. Does the program also offer local networking events? Many online MBA students prefer to network in person rather than or along with virtually, experts say. Therefore, it’s essential to determine whether programs host career fairs and other face-to-face events nationwide.
UF’s Hough business school, for example, holds networking meetups for on-campus and online MBA students in major Florida cities each year, Gresley says – and sometimes even across the country.
“If we can get critical mass where we’ve got students, we do our best to bring them together,” he says.
4. Are there opportunities to connect with business leaders? Prospective students should understand whether there are opportunities to speak with alumni or employees in the field who can provide advice, says Griffy-Brown of Graziadio. Professors or career services might be a good way to start.
Ray Aflakian, an online MBA student at Graziadio, says a professor connected him with a founder and CEO of a startup that evolved into a larger company.
“He stayed on it and made sure to make it happen,” says the 29-year-old, who’s starting his own business. “That conversation was pivotal for me.”
5. Does the program advise students on how to network? Because many online students plan to change careers or advance in their current company, they might want to determine whether their program teaches them how to effectively build connections.
At ASU’s Carey business school, the career center holds webinars for students about how to manage the career process, Brett says. And at Kelley, online MBA students complete a required course that trains them to successfully network, says Terrill Cosgray, executive director of online programs at Kelley.
“Networking is actually in some ways more effective in an online program in that everyone is currently working,” Cosgray says. “They understand the value and need for networking.
source unsews.co

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