This blog was written by a Cross Continent MBA student prior to the program’s merger with the Global Executive MBA program. 

Before I started the Cross Continent MBA program, I was curious as to how the distance learning portion would work in between class residencies. I knew that a majority of assignments would be team-based and that my teammates would be located all over the globe, but I hadn’t experienced the challenges of working across different time zones, compounded with the demands of work, family and life. Now, that I’ve reached the end of Term 1 (and am forever done with financial accounting!), I want to share my team experience during the distance learning periods of the MBA.

Creating the Team Charter

one of Duke's distance learning platforms

…but during the distance learning periods, we meet virtually

In your first residency you’ll spend a significant amount of time going over your team charter. A team charter is a living document stating shared expectations of behaviors. So far, working on ours has helped us layout what we call our team’s “mini-culture.” First, we agreed to have recurring meetings every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. EST and to use Slack for daily communications, WebEx (and or Skype) for video conferences, and Office 365 to share documents. We would rotate a team facilitator/team lead for each assignment. This position would essentially act as the project manager in charge of understanding and delegating tasks, and keeping the team on track. We also agreed to complete assignments 48 hours before their deadline.

Project Management

During Term 1 we had two accounting papers, one management paper, and one Culture Civilization and Leadership video presentation. Depending on the assignment, we had about one to two weeks to complete it. I was chosen as the team facilitator for our management paper. First, I reviewed the instructions and second, I organized the topics and created an outline in shared documents (i.e. introduction, topic 1, topic 2, topic 3, and conclusion) the day before our Monday meeting. For Monday’s team meeting, we split into three groups of two. I assigned each group a topic with a deadline to complete their part by the Thursday of the same week. I also scheduled a team appointment for following Saturday so we could all review the document. But being the project manager, I also had to check for grammatical errors and send the soon-to-be final document to the group for any last minute suggestions, and finally submit our assignment by 8:00 p.m. EST that night. All in all, we took one week to complete and submit the assignment.

For our accounting paper, we employed a similar method. Gabe was our team facilitator. He mixed up our groups of two and assigned us our sections. It happened that my teammate Alex and I were paired up, and we were given the fascinating topic of retirement and pension accounting. We decided to complete our sections individually over the next two days so we scheduled a review call three days out to go over our answers. On the fourth day, we arranged a full team meeting to review the paper and put forth any questions we had. Gabe then had 48 hours to organize and edit the paper before submission with the understanding that anyone can update it if they wanted to in that window of time. Then, on the sixth day, we submitted the paper.

Spelling things out in our team charter helped us navigate assignments during the distance portion. Several teams came up with different procedures and decided to organize their management paper by task—two members provided the outline, two wrote the paper, and two did the editing. Like at work, establishing and experimenting with different productivity methods is a large part of the Cross Continent MBA experience. And the distance learning portion is the perfect time to figure out what works best for you and your team.