Having been accepted into Bradford’s Business School’s distance learning MBA programme, I followed instructions and engaged the induction programme, it was a thorough introduction to Blackboard, a very integral portal to my distance MBA experience. My first modules of study was Business Accounting and Business Economics, I quickly got a reminder that I don’t efficiently read academic books. Both modules had eluminate tutorial sessions, during the introductions
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I quickly got a sense of the immense diversity at Bradford not just in country of origin but also in prior experience. I was, to say the least, nervous. Pangs of self-doubt crossed my mind. People seemed much smarter than me and some really seemed to have their game on, and this was the first semester! Why had I not chosen an IT focused Masters of the Science and entered this place of awesome strangers? The answer was to follow. But first I made a pact with myself: to remember that I did deserve to be here and my experiences would add to the overall class experience. This is essential. I have already learned a lot from my classmates.
Classes are taught through case studies, visual aids, videos of guest speakers and yes, sometimes just plain old brief powerpoint presentations and audio recording. I had often wondered how a subject like economics could be taught through case studies, especially to someone without a shred of economics background. Turns out they are rather effective because they simulate (yes, to a limited extent) the real life experience.
It’s not all about self-study , eluminate tutorial sessions and formative assignments. In fact, that’s just the baseline and no one at Bradford Business School is expected to operate at baseline. At the three quarters way point of the first semester with the final exams looming, I was way off the rhythm of coping with both the reading and assignment obligations. I have become more selective about the events I go to, the associations I choose to get emails from and the things that are important to me. After receiving feedback from my tutors for my first four modules it became clear that critical thinking is a weakness that needs to be addressed urgently.
Unfortunately my lack of staying on par with the reading requirements showed no improvement and was clearly reflected in my grade outcome. Upon commencing, the Managerial and Professional Development module, I completed the Honey & Mumford’s Learning Style Questionnaire, which revealed a strong preference for being an activist. This probably also relates to my lack of preparation for presentations. Thinking about this skill has also led me to think about how I function as a manager more generally – the ‘problem-solving’ role mentioned above is not necessarily the best. As a result, I research time management articles and pamphlets and decided to address this as another skill area, discussed below. This reinforced my understanding that I need to reconsider my use of time.
Covey’s matrix made me realise I spend too much of my time in Quadrant 1 – ‘Firefighting’ and, as a result, I’ve reviewed some of my study practices and now I plan better as a team and my delegation has improved. The presentation planning checklist is one example of reducing the need for last-minute panic (Quadrant 1) by thinking ahead. Keeping a learning journal seemed like a chore at first – not an activist behaviour – but with hindsight I can see that it made me stop and think. It is a practice I will continue with, even if I don’t use it very often or I’m reflecting mentally rather than in writing.
Finding opportunities to develop my skills has made me think more purposefully and creatively. I have also realised that it is an excellent way of building relationships with colleagues. Asking for feedback has encouraged others to be more open in return, so I have become more skilled in critical appraisal and giving feedback.
The PDP process has made me feel more in control and able to work out my own priorities and resources. I think much more about important ‘progress tasks’ so I’m less likely to get caught out as I did with my poor presentation. As a result, I’m a bit calmer and more effective as a supervisor; my staff has commented on this. I’m also more aware of their development needs and have developed a more systematic development and succession plan which my manager wants to extend to other departments.
Argyris, C., & Schon, D. A. (1978) Organizational learning. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Cyert, R.M., & March, J.G. (1963). A behavioral theory of the firm. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Lähteenmäki, S. 2001. Critical Aspects of Organizational Learning Research and. Proposals for Its Measurement. British Journal of Management, June 2001, Merriam-Webster, Merriam Webster dictionary, Available at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/learning [Accessed July 15, 2011]