You wake up to a beautiful Sunday morning and reach for your phone to check your messages from last night’s shenanigans. Suddenly, you’re gripped by a familiar, almost nostalgic, terror: the terror of realizing that you have again waited till the last minute to do your homework for your Tepper Part-Time Online Hybrid MBA.
At this point in your life, one would think you would have learned not to wait until the last minute to do your homework, but no. As a student at America’s #1 highest ranked online MBA program, you have merely professionalized procrastination.
Students in Tepper’s Part-time Online Hybrid (PTOH) MBA program are located all around the country and attend synchronous online classes remotely. The same world-class faculty who teach the full-time MBA courses at the Pittsburgh campus also teach the PTOH MBA courses online, using a video conferencing software called “Vidyo.” Each student, depending on his or her geographical location, needs to consider the time difference between where he or she is based and Pittsburgh time. This makes waiting till the last minute a slightly more analytical endeavor.
The continental U.S. is divided into 4 time zones. Pittsburgh is located in the easternmost time zone, or Eastern Standard Time (EST). For East Coast PTOH students, coordinating work and school carries with it only the usual difficulties; their ability to procrastinate is not seriously affected. For West Coast students in Pacific Standard Time (PST), however, there may be less opportunity to wait until tomorrow.
“I would say you have less time as a West Coast PTOH student. If the homework is due at 9 am EST, that is 6 am PST, so you have to get it done the night before,” said one student. “It can be rough especially when you wake up at 5 am PST realizing that you forgot to do an assignment that’s due at 6 am PST and frantically rushing to get it done.”
Synchronous online classes can also make it difficult for West Coast students to balance work and school.
“If an assignment is due before the lecture at 9 pm EST (6 pm PST), then I don’t have the same opportunity as everyone else to complete the assignment after work and before the lecture. I have to manage my time better before.”
Time zone differences are even more complicated for internationally-based students. I live and work in China, in the southern city of Guangzhou. China is about the same size as the continental U.S. and should have five different time zones. Curiously, the government adopts only a single time zone called China Standard Time (CST), which has a number of fascinating consequences. Due to daylight saving time, CST is 13 hours ahead of Pittsburgh from November till March, and 12 hours ahead the rest of the year. Basically, this means online evening classes in Pittsburgh are online morning classes in China on the following day.
Residing in the future, so to speak, has some advantages. If an online class is held on Tuesday evening at 8 pm EST, that same class is on Wednesday morning at 7 am CST. My U.S.-based classmates have to attend online sessions fatigued from a full day’s work. In contrast, I attend classes bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with my coffee in hand. Another advantage is that being 13 hours ahead makes it seem like I have an extra day to complete assignments. A test due on Sunday night at midnight EST is due on Monday afternoon at 1 pm CST. This means China-based students get to have Sunday Fun-day!
By now you might be wondering how PTOH students keep track of assignment due dates, time zone differences, daylight saving time, etc. It’s true that if you’re not careful, time differences can sneak up on you. “I almost missed a feedback session today while enjoying my Saturday morning and then realized [the due date] could have been stated in EST and not PST,” recalled one PTOH student. But, fear not! Tepper’s learning management software, Canvas, has an iPhone app that automatically displays assignment due dates in your local time. For the web-based version of Canvas, you can change time zones manually from the settings menu.
Normally, I would end here with a tongue-in-cheek quote like “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” However, the reality is that, as part-time MBA students working full-time jobs, it is inevitable that much of our work will have to be done at the last minute. The PTOH program is not “MBA lite.” It will definitely challenge you, perhaps more than the full-time MBA. So check your Canvas time settings, plan ahead as much as possible, and when in doubt, reach out to your fellow students for help. Good luck and welcome to Tepper’s PTOH MBA program!
I currently own and operate Tytus International, a business development consultancy located in Hong Kong. In addition, I'm a lecturer at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies School of Business in Guangzhou, China, where I teach Intercultural Communication in the Global Work Place and Entrepreneurial Management.