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Archive for November, 2006

Train of thought shunted

For some time now I have been mulling a question. Why do so many of those who start their studies via the distance learning mode not actually make it the whole distance and graduate?

Or perhaps the question could be, how does % that make it, make it?

Obviously, some don’t make it because, despite trying, they fail to pass the minimum assessment criteria. But that is not actually a high number. One could argue that a lot of people fail to finish because of events in their lives outside their control. For some, this may be true, but don’t the kinds of events most people experience in their 30s – births, deaths, moves, marriages, divorces, promotions and so on – happen equally as often to those who graduate as those who don’t?

This leads me to speculate whether it is not the fact of things happening, but how people deal with them. That is not to say that the ecology of a person’s situation isn’t important, but it is also of their own making (largely), so I’m left with the question: what makes the difference between the MBA distance finisher and the drop-out?

This is only indirectly related to the Vrtual Tutor Course I am now a participant on. Well, perhaps I may discover that it is dirctly related, too. It is interesting to speculate whether tutors/facilitators can help people who would otherwise find themselves dropping out.

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November e-Newsletter

Hello all,

The other morning I hit a deer while driving through the countryside to work. It really mucked up my day. According to Defra, there may are between 25 and 50,000 road traffic accidents involving deer each year in the UK. There are a lot of cars on the roads but since there are also apparently more deer roaming wild now than there were in medieval times, it is not at all surprising to find that accidents happen. Not surprising when they do, but still quite shocking.

If you will permit me to mangle an analogy, the distance learning MBA is bit like a long drive. You can plan your route, fuel your car, drive carefully and considerately, shout at the kids in the back, take rest breaks, but you also never know when something is going to step out in front of you and do some damage. Dealing, or not dealing, with the unexpected on the MBA is a major challenge and reinforces many of benefits of developing a strong support network within your intake. Keeping in touch with other Programme Members is probably the most effective way of maintaining motivation. Your Personal Tutor (your roadside assistance?) is another, and as reported in the last summer’s annual questionnaire nearly 70% of you have used your personal tutor during your studies. In many cases, you may also be able to work with the College administration when things get tough. The worst thing to do, and the thing that feeds non-completion statistics, is to stay silent.

Here endeth the first lesson. This month’s newsletter will have more news on assignment grades, an up-date on how the Optional Skills Workshop went, an appeal for more MBA interest in a project via Mike Griffith and news of a chance to join the Modular and Evening MBA students on the International Management Week study trips.

Henley-Based DL Assessment Statistics

Earlier in the year I shared with you the annual averages on grades for assignments and exams. Since figures are released at each of the quarterly Board of Examiners meetings, I thought I’d pass on the latest. It should make you feel better about your own progress by placing it in context.

In the third quarter of 2006, there were 163 Foundations of Management assignments marked. The mean grade was B-, and there were no fails. For Managing Information, there were 154 marked, mean mark was B and no fails. Managing People, 197 marked, B- and two fails. In the Part One exam, 167 people sat, the average mark was C and there were 6 fails. In the same period, 7 people resat this exam, and all of them passed, though the average was D+.

At Part Two, 142 Managing Marketing assignments were marked, with an average grade of B-, with one fail. 126 Managing Performance assignments produced an average mark of B, with again one fail. Managing Financial Resources had 141 assignments, average mark B and one fail. At the exam, the average from 130 people was C and four people failed. One person resat their Part Two exam, and passed. For the Project Management MBA, 13 sat the exam, two failed and the average grade was C. One Project Manager resat, and passed, their Part Two exam.

In Part Three, 138 ISPs were marked, average grade was B and none were failed. In the exam, 158 members sat, average grade was C+ and two failed. As for Dissertation, 138 were graded, average mark was B and four failed. The most popular elective in this period was Leadership, and of the 47 people who submitted the assignment, none failed. The average grade was B.

Optional Skills Workshop Weekend

We were able to run seven of the planned eight half-day sessions. I will be very interested to get the feedback from those who were there on both how effective individual sessions were, and also on the overall structure of using a weekend chunk in this way. Often the benefits of such events are not felt until some time later; things brought to light in a workshop suddenly begin to resonate in other areas of work or career, so I will be asking for thoughts in the New Year. One thing to know is whether this should be every six or every twelve months. A side benefit for many of those who were there was the chance to meet programme members from other Intakes, so I am keen to encourage this as well.

Appeal for help

Another opportunity has come up, via Mike Griffith, this time at short notice on behalf of a Senior Director in Cisco (Cisco is the global leader in internet network infrastructure and services) responsible for their Strategic Consulting Emerging Markets division. She needs someone to help research the critical success factors around transforming emerging countries in particular how telecommunications are enabling their unprecedented growth for one of the largest telecommunications conferences of the year ITU 3G World Congress and Mobility Marketplace Dec 4-7th in Hong KongShe has asked for help from an MBA student to help synthesise the key insights from research. She would then be very happy to work directly with them in helping preparing key messages in her speech at this conference. Assuming the work was of a high quality she would be very happy to provide a testimonial. Ideally she is looking for someone who has understands the issues and opportunities around the growth of emerging economies and has some experience in growing those markets through telecommunications. This is a great opportunity to effectively consult to a Senior Director at Cisco. If you are interested, please contact Mike

International Management Week

Places are available for DL and students on the Modular and Evening MBA international management visits in March 2007 to Budapest, Cape Town, Hong Kong and St Petersburg. These will be allocated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis (currently with fewest places available for Hong Kong).

Participation and assignment submission (with the exception of Project Management MBA) counts as an elective (International Business Environment), so is a great way of gaining experience and progression.

The aim of the study visit is to maximise the learning about:· The international business environment in general and secondly and more importantly,· The interface between the organisations visited and the national business environment they work inThe one week visit forms the foundation for this elective. While you are away you will participate in a variety of company visits and lectures by local faculty and managers. The companies to be visited have been chosen to provide a strategic window through which these two facets of the operating environment can be explored. The relevant environmental features that are being addressed include politics and economics; social, technological, legal, environmental and cultural factors and industry competition issues.

Detailed timetables for each destination will be available much nearer the time of departure, but if you would like to know more, please contact Marcia Doughty directly. Please note the charges are as follows: Budapest – £1600, St Petersburg – £1700, Cape Town & Hong Kong – £1900 and students also have to arrange their own flights and visas (if necessary).

I know from past experience of hosting the Budapest trips that they are intensive and very rewarding. I hope to be accompanying the group to Budapest and it would be great to have involvement from DL MBAs.

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Virtually Challenged

I am now into week two of the Henley Virtual Tutor Certificate course. I am one of about a dozen participants, several of whom are colleagues at Henley, so we have the slightly odd sensation of being on an online course, but sitting together at lunch…

It’s already been quite an interesting experience. It’s much more difficult to be active with a group of people that you don’t really meet face to face, at the same time as managing your own reading and reflection of the material, at the same time as keeping to the deadlines of study, at the same time as working full time… I could go on.

The Wiki is going along. Only one other member has actually posted/edited anything, so that is quite interesting. There’s no way of telling if any of the others currently eligible to take part have actually spent time on the site. Nevertheless, it is beginning to take shape, and part of its shape is based on comments of others.

This past weekend also was the Optional Skills Weekend for Distance Learning MBAs, with half-day workshops on various topics, such as Consultancy Skills, Resume Writing, Research Methods and NLP. It was quite well attended and I am keen to build on it, and tailor it to student needs more. I ran the Resume Writing session, and was aware that the Henley Coaching course was having an influence; rather than focus on the typical ‘dos and don’ts‘ of CV, I was encouraging people to work on their career goals, research their intended reader and then start writing.

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Something Wiki this way comes

Today I have been in the process of setting up a Wiki. I hope that I’ve succeeded in the first part, which was to find a suitable site – one where access is restricted to invited members only.

Now all that remains is the hard second part, engaging with a small community of staff and faculty from Henley around the world to create a shared document. Watch this space (well, only if you’re invited!)

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Dem Bones, Dem Bones

The other evening we held a dinner at the College. It was open all the participants from the intake that should now be working on the final part of their MBA, the dissertation. This was actually the third such meal since I joined the College, and has become a regular ‘extra’ and a great way for people to connect with their classmates, tutors and staff.

About 20 people attend. The College Principal, Chris Bones, is very keen on these kind of meetings with stakeholders, and joined us in our private dining room, acting also as after-dinner speaker. Now Chris is both an experienced HR practitioner and practiced (one might say well-oiled, but would suggest the influence of alcohol, which was certainly not the case) speaker, so audiences enjoy listening to him. At this event, Chris started – as he usually does – by stating what for him makes Henley special and what are the things which we hold as being important in learning about management. A keen historian, this is very much grounded in the philosophy of Henley’s founders. Chris also mentioned a number of more off-beat things, such as the management philosophy as contained in one of the Harry Potter books.

Chris normally stops somewhere there, perhaps with a rallying cry to work hard and finish in time to graduate. On this occasion, he carried on and began to take questions and that is when it got really interesting because you could begin to see the depth of his thinking and the breadth of his experience. What caught my interest was what I perceived to be the interaction from the students that drew out his knowledge, much of it in the form of anecdotes. One wonders whether a model could be developed to see if there is a good way to extract knowledge and experience in a more efficient way…

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Who’s in

Most mornings I like to walk in to the College via the main entrance. It’s not the most direct route from the staff car park to my office, but I like to look at the board – just on the left as you go in – listing all the courses, programmes and companies in that day. Painstakingly arranged by hand the previous evening, it gives a sense of how busy it will be that day, but I enjoy it more for the more exciting range of activity and visitors the College hosts.

Today’s, for example, had the usual suspects, a distance learning Intake and a company MBA, as well as some now familiar corporate clients, such as BaE Systems. What caught my eye, though, was the England and Wales Cricket Board. I don’t know if this was a course arranged by us, or Henley simply hosting a meeting (as it often does, being where it is and looking as it does), but I enjoyed speculating the kinds of discussions they must be having. Let’s hope they were all out before tea…

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