Seven tips for taking online classes: advice from Foster’s Hybrid MBA students

Working from home has become more common for employees across the US, but  “school from home” is still a unique concept for most graduate students. While the University of Washington and other universities across the nation move all classes online due to COVID-19, traditional students are transitioning to remote students.

There is one group of students at the Foster School of Business where online learning is part of their everyday life. The students of the Hybrid MBA program (95% online, 5% in person) find flexibility and innovation in the online MBA curriculum and are experts at setting themselves up for success as online students. Here are some of their best tips for being a remote student.

7 Tips for Taking Online Classes

1. Make Your Space Special

Online student desk

A Hybrid MBA Student’s Desk: two screens, photos of family, backdrop of furry friend, and adjustable desk.

Having a designated study space and making it special can help to make your home office a place you want to be for a long period of time. Some students recommend fun office gadgets like light-up mechanical keyboards, or surround themselves with pictures and mementos. Also make sure to have an adequate seat and set up your workspace ergonomically. You may want to get creative and create a standing desk environment.

2. Stay organized + Set Goals

Whether it’s using pens and highlighters to take physical notes, or charging your phone in another room to minimize distractions, finding an organization system that works for you is important to success. Some students suggest avoiding multitasking in order to be efficient with your time. Others have two browsers open (one for school and one for fun) on their computer to stay focused.

You might be using an unfamiliar piece of technology as a newly remote student. Set aside time to get comfortable with that tool to minimize potential issues when trying to log on to class or meet with classmates. For example, visit the Zoom website and watch the tutorial videos and how it works. Knowing the in-s and out-s of how class will function in an online environment, will help eliminate stress of the unknown.

For large projects, set goals to accomplish weekly, especially for team projects, so that tasks don’t slip away.

3. Create a schedule

Set an agenda and expectations for the day upfront. Use a checklist to stay on track and so you can feel satisfied when you cross things off your list. It can be helpful to imitate a normal routine:

“Every morning I do the same thing that I would normally do when preparing for work, i.e. brush teeth, change clothes, etc. While wearing PJs would be more comfortable, it makes me feel like I can just go to bed anytime.”  –Suki Ngan

4. Study Buddies + Accountability

Study Buddy

A Hybrid MBA Student enjoys the company of his dog as he does school remotely.

It’s always nice to have your furry friend by your side. And for many pets can be a stress reliever. Don’t have a furry friend? Then maybe your computer backdrop is of Dubs or another animal that will make you smile.

Another suggestion from Hybrid MBA Students is to stay connected with your classmates which promotes relationship building and provides built in accountability. For example, make it a date to both work on the reading for Economics class at the same time. There is comfort knowing that your classmate across town or the country is working on the same thing as you are at the same time.

5. Fuel your body

A fitness watch is helpful to remind you to move every hour. If you don’t own one, make sure to set an alarm or put it in your schedule. Get fresh air, drink plenty of water and eat brain food.

One Hybrid MBA student mentioned her favorite snacks to stay alert during a study session are coffee, dark chocolate and berries. Keep your fitness routine up, whether it is taking long walks or finding virtual workouts, your body will thank you.

6. Sleep

With so much time at home, it can be easy to fall into bad sleep habits like staying up late. If you have trouble sleeping, try not to use any electronics an hour before bed. If you like to watch a show to relax, do that. Give yourself time to figure out what works best for you.

7. Practice mindfulness

Take plenty of breaks and listen to your mind and body. If you need to connect with others, reach out to some friends to set a date for Google/Zoom Hangouts. Maybe create a weekly “hang out” for you and your classmates or your team to connect.

If you need more time to yourself, schedule an hour “off” from family and work to be by yourself. Meditation can help with focus and stress relief as well.

After I make my list of things to do for the day I log onto my meditation app before I start studying or working. I love the Serenity app.” – Tiffany Shen

Bonus tip! Hybrid MBA Student, Shelby Miller shared a clever learning suggestion: Pair audio & visual learning: use a dictation app when reading to see AND hear the material at the same time


Whether you are new to the Hybrid MBA Program or a UW student who has to transition to online learning this quarter, we wish you the best and hope these tips from our students help!



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