If you have been in school between Spring 2020 – Spring 2021, you’ve likely noticed that the last few semesters have not been a “normal” grad-school experience. As soon as COVID-19 took over the US, grad-school life as we knew it, or expected it to be, was turned on its head. In this post, I will be sharing my experience in grad-school during COVID-19, and sharing my tips for studying for your MBA during COVID-19.
What are MBA Classes like During COVID-19?
Class Structure During COVID-19
I go to Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University (SMU). Cox at SMU allows students to choose either virtual or in-person classes when signing up for classes before the semester. Then, if you are in an in-person section, you still have the opportunity to attend via Zoom if you become ill. Many students took advantage of this in my early classes, but in the Spring semester, my professors required prior-written permission to attend virtually.
Class Timing During COVID-19
In addition to virtual teaching, classes are also shorter in length, smaller in number of students, and partially asynchronous. Classes that would normally be two separate sections are now one longer section to reduce in-person and professor time per class. With shorter live sessions, about half of the learning is done asynchronously. I watch videos prior to class, do extra problems at home, and attend many more office hours than I normally would, all to be sure that my learning is unterrupted by the unusual schedule.
Seating in MBA Class During COVID-19
I take most of my classes in small auditorium-style rooms. Each row has staggered seats with stickers on them to show where you can sit in a socially distanced way. They go from one in the middle to two, one on either end of the row and so forth. This keeps us distant from one another but still allows for classroom interaction. There are certain classes that require discussion with peers, which is more difficult in this environment.
Interpersonal Interaction While Studying for Your MBA During COVID-19
MBA Group Projects During COVID-19
Group projects are a large and vital part of grad-school. Interaction with others students is necessary to learn to work with people in different ways, hear from additional viewpoints, and learn from others’ experience.
Group projects in this world are completely different than they were for me in undergrad. We typically meet after work, since this is a part-time program, most students have full-time jobs in addition to classes. Since we’re only on campus 1-2 nights per week, and we all have long days, in order to avoid additional days on campus, many of my group meetings have been via zoom. I am pretty sure we began using Zoom for meetings because we are so conditioned to do so from working remotely during COVID-19, however, I do think this will be a trend that will continue. It’s so much easier to log on at night than driving up to campus for another evening after working 8-10 hour days.
Clubs, Seminars, Speakers
SMU has a strict no-gathering policy for clubs, so all club meetings and events are virtual. I went to a few in the beginning of the semester but skipped many of them all together. I joined clubs to meet people and network, but virtual events where you don’t know anyone are super awkward, and its really difficult to actually get to know anyone.
However, I am here for the virtual speakers. I love the virtual sessions for similar reasoning to why we do virtual group meetings. Less traveling after a long day of work. As long as the speakers are engaging, I love a virtual speaker! The down side is definitely the lack of networking. I obviously can’t interact with other students or the presenter.
5 Tips for Studying for Your MBA During COVID-19
Take Advantage of Virtual Speakers and Seminars
In my first semester, I joined more Business Leadership Center seminars than I ever would have been able to in person. The virtual seminars are so helpful for part-time students who are short on time, but want to learn. I also attended a seminar through the marketing club which was really helpful while I was applying for jobs. As long as you want to be there, you will get a lot out of the virtual sessions.
Interact However Possible With Other Students and Professors
Networking is one of the biggest reasons I wanted to go to SMU for my MBA. Meeting potential co-workers, friends, and future references is vital to any grad-school degree, specifically an MBA. It’s so important to meet and get to know your professors because they can become your references for future jobs or scholarships.
Take Time Off
COVID-19 is an unusual time without mixing in additional schoolwork. When you have school, work, plus regular life, things can get overwhelming. This semester, since we had classes cancelled with the winter storm, I don’t have any breaks until late June. I really can’t imagine not taking a day off until then, so I take little breaks when I can. A half-day off of work, or a brunch with friends on the weekend really help with resetting and refreshing.
Prioritize Time and Asynchronous Material
Asynchronous material can get a bit tedious. When you aren’t forced to sit in class and take notes, you really have to focus when learning on your own. I set time aside each weekend to watch my recorded lectures and work on homework and projects. I prefer to do it all at once on the weekend, but others do a little at a time each night of the week. Find what works for you and prioritize accordingly.
Be Prepared and Stay focused in Classes
With one longer class session vs. two shorter classes, it can be really difficult to stay alert and focused for an extended period of time. In my first class for Managerial Accounting this semester, our professor had us calculate the cost we were paying per minute to be in class. It turned out to be $6 per minute (yes, school is very expensive), but that was enough to make me realize that every minute I think about opening an email in class or looking at my phone, I’m wasting my own money and a lot of it at that. Staying focused and being prepared will only put me in a better position for the future and help move my goals forward.
At the time of writing this post, classes are scheduled to return to pre-pandemic programming in the Fall of 2021.