Alex Sheen Whatsapp

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I spent much of my summer investigating MBA programmes. As a Dad to a young family with very little flexibility in my week, my options were limited. Clearly a full-time programme was off the cards due to other commitments but so too was a weekend MBA. Weekends are a precious time for me and not something I could afford to give up. So this only left one option – online distance format.

I had spent the previous year enrolled on an online course and found the format workable with my other commitments, so off I went in search of online MBA programmes on both sides of the Atlantic. After an extensive search (a colour coded, multi-criteria decision analysis spreadsheet), I settled on Imperial College Business School’s fledgling Global Online MBA. The reputation of Imperial College and its strong engineering heritage pushing it to the top of my list above the universities of North Carolina and Maryland, my other top choices.

The success of an MBA above many factors is the interaction between students as they share networks, ideas and experience. Clearly an online MBA should make this more difficult – even more so given that on Imperial’s Global Online MBA we are together as a cohort for a total of three weeks over the 2 years! However, this does not account for just how connected it is possible to be with a few apps. We’re now 9 weeks into our course and our cohort’s WhatsApp has sent a total of 7362 messages – we feel more connected than ever! The ease with which we can communicate, 24 hours a day, has driven discussions on everything from whether a trade show can be considered to be a flagship store to approaches to networking all the way through to some fairly heated debates on the US Elections.

Our cohort is spread from the US West Coast through to the Far East and the connectivity we have achieved as a group is probably more than we’d achieve in person. We’ve celebrated birthdays, wedding anniversaries and one new baby – all online, all at distance, all electronically.

Though we are early in our MBA programme, I am increasingly of the belief that online formats – supported by a tailored programme of content, proactive staff and, most of all, a cohort using all the technology available to keep connected – are the future of study. I’ve been able to study on planes and trains, early in the morning and late at night, in the office and on business travel. The flexibility to fit study around everything else in my life, especially family commitments, has opened up the option of an MBA for me and so many in my cohort in a way that traditional programmes cannot. If you think that an online programme won’t give you a great studying experience – think again!

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