How to Build Your Network in Online Classes — And Why It’s Important

build your network in online classesAsk anyone who has earned an MBA about what they gained from their program, and chances are that many will mention the network that they built while taking courses as one of the most meaningful aspects of their studies. From instructors and advisors to classmates, the people that you meet while completing an MBA often turn out to be important contacts and a foundation of your professional network.

The networking aspect of MBA programs is actually especially important for business owners, or people who want to own a business. Many of the other people in your classes are also entrepreneurs, and can offer new insights and knowledge while also becoming lifelong friends. You never know when the person you met in a study group for your finance class could turn out to be a future business partner or contact.

Students taking online classes often feel, though, that networking is much more difficult. After all, when you’re engaging in a discussion from home in the middle of the night when no one else is even online, it’s hard to make those connections. And while that’s a legitimate concern, the truth is you can build a solid network while earning your MBA, and the best online MBA programs actually make it very easy to do. Here’s how to build your network in online classes.

Getting to Know You — From a Distance

So how do you build a network when the people that you are working with are hundreds, even thousands, of miles away and you may never actually meet in person?

Approach group projects with a positive attitude. For many students, group projects often elicit groans. However, in an online class, a group project is an opportunity to meet and get to know other students. Use your group project work sessions to build connections by being friendly and interested in others while still producing excellent work. Instead of relying strictly on email or the class message board for work, arrange for a Google Hangout, use Facetime or Skype, or just make a conference call to share ideas. Actual conversations always build better connections than email only.

Use social media. Creating an accurate professional profile on LinkedIn is one of the most important things you can do for your networking efforts both in and outside of school. Connect with your classmates on social media; most of your classmates are trying to build their networks as well and will happily connect with you. Look at your classmate’s bios and email signatures for links to their other social media profiles. Following someone on Twitter or reading their blog can build connections.

participate-in-class-discussionsParticipate in discussions. Not only are class discussions online generally required as part of your course grade, but they can help you identify people who might be great contacts or partners in the future. When someone makes an interesting point for example, don’t be afraid to reach out via email or private chat to keep the conversation going. Be willing to share your own experiences too. After all, a great deal of your educational experience happens outside of the classroom and informally, so engage in conversations with your classmates to enhance your learning and perspective.

Connect with instructors, too. Instructors, guest speakers, internship and externship advisors, and academic advisors can all be a part of your network too. Get to know them, connect on social media, and ask questions about their work and experience.

Engage on campus. Finally, if possible, try to build some visibility on campus, if possible. Many programs have a residency requirement, but even if yours doesn’t, try to attend social or networking events, guest speaker presentations, and other on-campus events where you can meet some of your classmates and instructors in person and further cement the connections. If you live far from campus, reach out to alumni or fellow students living near you, and try to attend or arrange networking meetings locally.

For many entrepreneurs, success isn’t always about a great business idea and excellent marketing. Success often depends on who you know, and the support you can get from your network and the knowledge and opportunities they can bring you. Even as an online MBA student, you can build those relationships, as long as you’re willing to put yourself out there.

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About Dequiana Jackson

Dequiana Jackson, Founder of Inspired Marketing, Inc., helps overachieving women entrepreneurs conquer limiting beliefs and create marketing plans that grow their businesses. This includes one-on-one marketing plan development, digital product creation, web design and content marketing. Dequiana is the author of Know Your Business: How to Attract Ideal Clients & Sell More and runs the award-winning blog,

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