Earning an MBA Online Tips

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Prior Learning Assessments For Students

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a process utilized by some colleges and universities to assign credit at the undergraduate level for learning that has taken place informally, either through independent study, work experience, or from non-degree courses. Students must already be registered as full-time students before qualifying for PLA, and may be subject to certain conditions (i.e., can only challenge up to a maximum credit load as defined by the institution).

Colleges and universities have opened this process to students as a way of identifying and validating unique skills and training, and turning that learning into something tangible. It's important not to shrug off those elective courses you may have taken years ago, or the workshops and professional development training taken through your place of employment.

Now, it may sound like a simple process, but PLA isn't meant to be an easy way to get a credit, it's meant to turn prior learning into something applicable towards that final degree. Before going through the PLA process, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I have five or more years of solid experience, (gained through work, volunteer and/or leisure activities) in one field?
  2. Do I have five or more years experience in fields related to my core field that collectively demonstrate a consistency of professional/vocational purpose?
  3. Do I have a broad range of experiences, related to my core field or related fields
  4. Do I maintain currency in my profession or vocation by reading recent publications, by enrolling in credit or non credit courses and attending conferences, workshops?
  5. Do I consolidate my diverse learning experiences by earning formal educational or professional recognition?
Once you have a clear sense of the path you've been on, it might be time to look into a Prior Learning Assessment.


Finding A Business Degree Mentor

Just about everyone working toward an online business degree experiences a moment of panic - either fleeting or long-lived - when the immensity of the course load glares more brightly than the computer monitor. In a regular classroom setting, there's a bit of "letting off steam" among other students that goes a long way in validating your own thoughts and feelings. You don't feel quite so alone in that sense.

Did you know that even if you're an online student, you might be able to access one of the many student services offered by the college or university? You may not need a tutor, but what about a mentor? That person could be a graduate of the degree program you're working towards, or even a current student able to provide some feedback and guidance during the rough times.

Your academic advisors want you to succeed, and it's important to ask if you need help keeping on track.


Where To Find Your Grades Online

It used to be that grades were handed out after tests, exams, assignments, and projects were complete. The mark was written in red ink and circled at the top of the page. If you were lucky, there was a note attached to it with suggestions for next time, advice, or maybe a big fat “Well done!” scrolled on the page.
Whether you're working toward a business degree through the traditional classroom setting, or through online learning, don't expect to receive your grade the “old fashioned” way anymore.

Many instructors will hand back individual tests and examinations with marks on them, but to find out the culmination of your total score, you're probably going to have to use a student self-service website. This type of site is usually located somewhere on the college or university's website with a link accessible to students. Students are given a username and password to protect confidentiality and are expected to review their own grades.

Any question or concern about the posted grade should be brought to the instructor as soon as possible. Just because it's published on the web board doesn't mean it can't be fixed.
Only you and your instructor will have access to your posted grade.


Continuing Education For Military Personnel

The American Military University opened its doors in 1993 as a way to provide military personnel additional education beyond the scope of regular armed forces training. Through this accredited university, students can work toward an Associate, Bachelor, or Master's Degree. Bachelor of Arts students have the option of majoring in Military History, Intelligence Studies, or Military Management at a cost of $250 per credit hour. For students aiming for a Master's Degree, options include studies in Land Warfare, Naval Warfare, Air Warfare, Unconventional Warfare, Intelligence Defense Management, and Civil War Studies.

This training option is available only online, and is a great resource for military personnel wanting to advance their training. Need financial help? There are a variety of federal student loan programs and scholarships you might qualify for. To begin your application, visit the American Military University website where you can apply online.


Applying For Financial Aid

Obtaining a degree or diploma is an expensive proposition, and one that may require financial assistance. Before you do anything, check with the respective school you're interested in to see what types of financial aid they offer. They may have specific, time-sensitive, grant and scholarship applications. Make sure to look into any applicable deadlines, which often occur in spring before the start of a new academic year. The college or university may ask you to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA).

Barring that, you can look into the various financial options available through government (federal, state, and local), companies (who may offer scholarships and grants), or non-profit organizations. The government offers a variety of grants and loans for undergraduate students, including the Federal Pell Grant.

Whether you qualify for grants, government loans, or scholarships depends on a number of things including financial need. There are also a variety of grants and scholarships for minorities, people with disabilities, women, sporting awards, etc. The Internet offers a variety of free scholarship search databases that can help you narrow down your search to your particular niche. Do you volunteer for a particular organization? They may have a national office that offers grants and scholarships.

The important thing is to start looking early. It will take a bit of research and the last thing you want to do is miss a deadline.


Protecting Your Work In An Online Environment

It used to be that people picked up the most viruses directly from the classroom setting. Unfortunately, things haven't changed much in the technological age. Instead of catching viruses that leave us bed-ridden for a few days, we find ourselves burdened with viruses that leave our computers, and all of our hard-work, crippled or destroyed.

A common requirement of any online learning program is to upload, download, email, or post documents, web links, pictures, etc., so that the rest of the class can benefit. If anybody downloads freeware, shareware, or any type of software program from the Internet without first running a virus scan, there's a very real risk of infecting every computer who tries to open, run, or install these downloads. Some people may feel particularly comfortable downloading just about anything, as long as an instructor says it's okay to do so. But what if the instructor didn't run a virus scan?

Before registering for courses/programs online, find out what system requirements your computer needs, and then ask the school which type of anti-virus software they use. You might be able to purchase a copy of it from the school at a student-discount rate. Conversely, you could look into any number of popular anti-virus software programs. Stay away from messengers if at all possible and consider only interacting with students directly on the class web board. There's no way to be 100% safe from viruses and hackers, but exercising caution when it comes to downloads could save you a world of headache down the road.


More Talking In Class, Please

Unless your professor is one of the more dynamic and entertaining educators out there, chances are you tune him/her out within 10 minutes, perhaps even sooner. We can all envision the amphitheater-styled university classroom with the professor droning endlessly on. One of the unique and promising aspects of earning a degree online is the decidedly lack of lecture taking place. By its very nature, online learning isn't conducive to excessive lecture, lending itself to a model of discussion and student interaction.

Not familiar with online learning? If that's the case, it may be hard to understand how this type of learning can take place. After all, there's nobody sitting next to you, and there's no classroom community to speak of. Or is there…

With online learning, even larger-than-average classes can be broken down into groups where students are encouraged to utilize web board postings, email exchange, phone calls, or video and teleconferencing tools to communicate with each other. Online learning could easily become a solitary, stagnant experience. That's why there's a great push toward the opposite end of the communication spectrum. There may be no sound coming from your mouth as you while away the hours on projects and assignments, but your web postings and discussion groups should be a cacophony of virtual chatter.


The Online Learning Connection To The Real World

When the walls of the traditional classroom come down, the open space of evolved learning takes place. If you're taking an online business degree or course, chances are that course was created by an instructional designer. That person, armed with a sound knowledge of the curriculum and expected learning outcomes, strives to develop activities and projects that push the boundary of the typical classroom setting.

While group discussions and research projects are valuable, nothing beats the opportunity to send students into the real world to connect and interact with industry. If you're being encouraged to suggest changes or contribute new ideas to the course curriculum, consider yourself part of a valued and truly open learning concept.

You may be asked to create and maintain blogs following specific development criteria, research online newsgroups, participate in online forums, etc. These methods of education take the student far beyond the typical face-to-face classroom discussion, opening up a world of networking opportunity. Working directly with volunteer organizations, industry, agencies, etc., puts the student in direct contact with individuals who may end up becoming their mentors or colleagues. That's why it's important to ask a lot of questions before registering for courses and programs online.

You want to make sure that the education you're getting is dynamic, global, and provides networking opportunities.

Can I obtain credits toward my distance learning mba degree through relevant life experience?

Relevant Life Experience Credits Toward Online MBA Programs

Not every distance learning mba program offers the option of earning credit for relevant experience, but it's worth checking into it. For example, some universities offer credits for prior learning experience. Contrary to what some might believe, it's not an easy way to get a credit. However, it can be a valid way to earn a credit, if you can prove that you're prior learning meets the learning outcomes of the course/credit you want to take. The process isn't unique for everyone. If your goal is to earn an online mba degree, take some time to look over the program courses. You may discover you have significant prior work or life experience that may be apply as a credit, or partial credit. Proving prior experience might involve any number of activities including:

  • Demonstrating skills through various means
  • Written tests/exams
  • Oral presentation
  • Interview or dialogue with the assessor
  • Simulation through role plays or case studies
  • A combination of any of the above.

Again, not every distance learning mba program will offer this opportunity to students. If in doubt, ask! There may be additional charges involved in the prior learning assessment process, and you'll need to have as much documentation ready before moving forward with the assessment.

What special admission requirements for online mba programs do international students have?

International Degree Requirements For Entry Into Top Online MBA Programs

International students require more official documentation to gain acceptance into the top MBA distance education programs, or Master Degree in Business online. In order to accurately and fairly assess the application, accredited online mba programs must be sure that your international education meets the admission requirement standards set out by the university. International students (born outside of the United States) are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The official grade must then be sent directly to the university. If the test scores are more than two years old, you may be required to take the test again. In addition, international students applying for an online mba program must list on their application all schools attended (including primary and secondary schools), and enclose official transcripts. Keep in mind that not all online mba programs ask for the same admission requirements, although all accredited institutions should have very similar requirements. Don't assume your application is being processed without problem. Always follow up with the school once your application has been submitted to make sure the application isn't being overlooked or designated as incomplete. Typically, any additional fees required to obtain copies of transcripts, etc., are the responsibility of the student. Remember, school administrators are bus so don't assume they'll contact you immediately if there's a problem with your application.

How do I go about writing a personal essay for the online mba admission requirement?

Fear Not The Essay - Writing Your Way Into An Online MBA Program

The admission criteria for many online mba programs include things like a Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, official transcripts, excellent GMAT scores, a resume, letters of recommendation, and the dreaded essay. For many people (no matter how prestigious their employment status) writing an essay evokes instant anxiety and insecurity. Sure they can string articulate sentences together, but to write an evocative personal essay, the writer has to be able to neatly package a concise narrative on their accomplishments.

If your goal is admission into one of the many distance learning mba programs, and you're faced with the dreaded essay, here are some tips to break the task down into something more manageable:

Jot down, in point form, all of your business and personal accomplishments from the last five years.

Write down these headings (in this order, all of them related to your professional life):

Where I've been (professional accomplishments)

What personal strengths helped me to accomplish the above

What strengths do I want to build on

How will an online mba help me build on my strengths?

What new goals have I set for myself?

How will I achieve my new goals through an online mba?

Now, go back and write five or six sentences under each category. Elaborate as much as possible. Go back, remove the headings, and you've got yourself the first draft of your personal essay! Ultimately, you want to tell a story about your professional life: where you've been, where you want to go, and how you plan to get there.

How can I be sure the online mba degree I'm getting is worth anything?

The Value of a Master Degree In Business Online

Naturally, employers want to recruit highly qualified, experienced individuals with a solid education. The community of learners seeking an online mba, or an accredited online mba, is growing, yet not all employers are convinced of the distance mba validity. Let's face it, anyone can print a professional looking diploma. There are, however, a few things you can do to make sure you're not buying into a diploma mill when getting an online mba degree, including the following:

While most universities probably won't hand over the entire mba curriculum before you commit to the program, they should be able to give you a detailed description of the course requirements. If they're vague, or have nothing to offer, be wary.

Ask for the names and contact information of the faculty teaching the online mba classes. A quick email to them will give you a better sense of how the program operates.

Ask what the maximum class size is. Be wary if the institute is overloading classes. Even though they're online, a class size of no more than 20 to 25 students enhances opportunities for online networking.

You're spending a lot of time and money, so make sure the mba degree you own is worth the paper it's written on.

Do I qualify to apply for an online mba degree?

Are You Qualified To Complete A Master Degree In Business Online?

Remember when it was enough to complete high school, maybe get a one or two-year diploma through college, and move into a job where you stayed until retirement? Over the years, society has made (and continues to make) global changes that affect everything from the way we work, to the way we pursue recreational outlets. The result: lifelong learning. Complacency is a no-no in the workplace. To keep up with the organizational and technological changes in today's corporations, employees must always be looking for ways to further their education, either informally, or formally, through earning a master degree in business online. The question is, are you qualified?

The best online mba programs consider age and experience, GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) scores, and certain course prerequisites when screening applications. The average age of students applying for an online mba degree is about 26 – 30 years. Students accepted into mba programs generally have pertinent work experience spanning 4 – 5 years. Furthermore, the better your GMAT scores, the better your chances of acceptance into the best online mba programs. Aim for a score higher than 600.

In Canada, gaining acceptance into a master degree in business online requires similar prerequisites, but may also include:

An undergraduate degree

  • A minimum “B” average within the last two years of undergraduate degree
  • There may also be specific course requirements, depending on the mba degree.
Before applying to the online program of your choice, make sure you have the necessary prerequisites to avoid unnecessary disappointment.

How can I maintain my good health while studying for an online mba degree?

Mind/Body Balance While Completing An Online MBA Degree

Your reasons for choosing one of the top online mba programs might include the opportunity to apply for a promotion in your current organization, a change in career paths, or a chance to enrich your life. Whatever your reasons, the commitment to study through an online mba university is huge. Within a two-year span, you will have completed approximately 50 semester hours of credit, including mandatory and elective credits. That's a lot of time hunched over books or sitting in front of the computer. Your education is important, and a little stressful. To benefit the mind and body, practice the following healthy habits:

  • Take frequent breaks from the computer
  • Maintain a regular wake/sleep cycle – no all nighters!
  • Maintain a regular exercise routine to keep blood flowing and brain cells sharp
  • Don't use this period of education to make major life decisions, if possible.
  • Make sure to take your eyes away from the computer screen periodically to reduce eye strain.
  • Organize your workload and mark assignment due dates in a prominent place
  • Don't procrastinate! You'll only stress that much more later.
  • Do keep a positive outlook. Getting an online mba is difficult, but well worth the effort in the end.
As you work your way through your online mba classes, try not to focus on the two-year span of studies ahead of you. Instead, focus on small, short-term goals related to your studies. Before you know it, you'll be the proud owner of an online mba degree.

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