Student Voices: Lessons Learned from MBA@UNC (Part Two)

Ana-Laura Diaz Class of 2013My first year in the MBA@UNC program has been incredibly enlightening. In my last post, I reflected on some  things I wish I had known going in to the program. Reevaluating my notions of time management, rallying the support of my friends and family and opening my mind to new learning experiences made this first year a positive one.

But what about learning in the online classroom? For many of us, this is the most significant change from how we’ve attended class in the past. Here are some things to keep in mind as you approach MBA@UNC’s online learning platform.

1. You’re always in the front row.

Our weekly live classes offer a unique glimpse into each other’s lives. And with 10 weeks of 90-minute lectures, we have all been guilty of checking out what’s going on in the background of each other’s video feeds. Be it an errant pet (or significant other) or an oscillating fan or a crooked picture, someone will notice what’s going on behind you. That’s because the very nature of our online classroom, with its live video feed via webcam, means you are always in the front row. When my classmates or professors look on their screen, they can see me up close. And I can see them. While this kind of attention might be a daunting prospect, it’s also what makes MBA@UNC so special. Unlike other online programs, my classmates and I participate in real time just like in a traditional classroom.

2. Bring your “A” game!

MBA@UNC’s small class sizes (capped at 12-15 students) and up-close-and-personal setting mean is everyone in the first row and everyone is fair game for professors’ questions. While this was intimidating at first, it encourages us to be prepared for live classes and elevates the classroom discussions. MBA@UNC is not a program where students receive credit just for checking in. Small class sizes means each student is an integral part of the live discussion, and participation is required. Professors often send students into breakout rooms, which divide the class into small groups of two or three students. These smaller groups allow us to freely discuss and critique our classmates’ efforts at writing persuasive messages (Business Communications) or design a global campaign for an energy drink (Global Marketing Strategy). MBA@UNC provides students with personal attention, which means everyone’s ideas are valued.

3. Do not underestimate the bonds you will make.

When I started this program, I was skeptical about the connections I’d make in an online program. Less than two weeks into the program, I cast those concerns aside. The level of connection I have with my classmates is indisputably strong. From “good luck” texts on test days to group meetings and reminders to stay on task, the friendships I have forged with my classmates are identical to what I would expect in a traditional program. My July 2011 cohort has become a second family. In just the first year, we celebrated new jobs, promotions, new babies, engagements and cross-country moves. With that kind of success, I eagerly anticipate what the second half of our program will bring.  

About Ana-Laura Diaz: About Ana-Laura: Ana-Laura Diaz is currently a practicing attorney living in the South Florida area. After attending UNC-Chapel Hill as an undergraduate, she received her J.D. from the University of Miami. Her love for all things Carolina and the desire to expand her horizons led her to the MBA@UNC program, where she continues to be “Tar Heel bred.”