In the first of a series of articles on distance learning, we caught up with Helena Feibert, one of the first students to embark on the Online MSc International Business at the University of Birmingham. It was an opportunity to find out why she chose the programme, what her day-to-day study practices were, and how she balanced assignments and study sessions with her other commitments.
When it came to finding the right business course, Helena, who works full-time as an IT Consultant for Pandora, searched far and wide to find one with sufficient credibility and flexibility to match her lifestyle.
“I was looking around at different universities providing distance learning or providing learning in the vicinity of where I live. It had to be a good university, so it had to have some accreditations. It had to be a ranked university, which had proven credentials. Once I had decided on an online MSc, I had a look at some universities in Denmark, Sweden and in the UK, and I thought the match for Birmingham was great. It was exactly what I wanted to study and the parameters around it fit my work schedule really well.”
For Helena, prioritisation and scheduling were key to her study success. “The first class we had, I was still getting the hang of it. How do I schedule this with seeing my friends, seeing my family, my work commitments and so on? I quickly learned that I needed to prioritise. So, for example, only one appointment a week with friends.”
“I had to block certain days for assignments and group work. Everything was scheduled down to hours or half hours,” Helena continued.
But she soon discovered that working with others required a more flexible approach to planning.
“Group work was my biggest challenge. People have different cultures – we work in different ways. You have to be able to embrace those differences. But also embrace differences among personalities. How many people plan, and how many want to meet last minute?”
It’s “not just academia – you learn something about how you work and how you don’t work,” Helena emphasised in summary of her study experience.
Being flexible also helped her overcome an unexpected issue with her dissertation. “Something went wrong four days before I had to hand it in, so I had to write half of it again. I’ve also learned to have a plan B and not panic when things go sideways.”
Finding the right space to study and sticking to it kept her focused over the two-year study period. “I invaded half of the living room! It was my study corner for two years. I had that space and it was mine, not to be touched or cleaned up. I could have my own mess, in my own system.”
Beyond the programme material, the Online MSc has taught Helena some valuable life lessons: “I learned a lot about how to plan my tasks. I’ve always been pretty good at time management and planning, but studying and online MSc took this to a whole new level.”
“I also learned how to handle conflicts in a diplomatic manner. I learned how to get things done, because we needed an end goal, no matter what, especially in group work. And how to try to get everyone to pitch in – I learned that too. At work there’s often someone with stars on their shoulder, so it’s easier. But here, we were all ranked the same, so we needed dialogue.”
“If anyone is thinking about applying for an online degree, get your priorities straight and make sure you can stay dedicated. There are going to be surprises, there are going to be many long nights, and there are going to be private events you aren’t going to take part in. But if you are aware of that before you start it’s not going to be as hard to accept, because you know what you’re getting into.”
Helena’s top study tips:
- Prioritise and schedule your time
- Be flexible when working with others
- Preserve your study space
If you are interested in finding out more about our Online MSc International Business – or any of our other online programmes – please fill out the request information form to download a brochure or call our admissions team today.