Avoiding Isolation as an Online Student
There’s a lot to be said for online education. There’s the flexibility, the open scheduling, the lack of commute, not to mention the cost savings. It’s an attractive proposition that has seen more than six million students step up to the challenge. One of the few downsides to online education is often identified as a lack of opportunity to socialize with other students and build a professional network. Does that really have to be the case though? If you choose online education, are you really signing up for years of isolation? Not necessarily so. As the old adage goes “no man is an island,” and never does that ring more true than when you are studying an online course.
Clearly, the opportunities to network with your peers and engage your professors are more apparent when you are physically on campus. That does not mean that those opportunities do not exist for the online student. You just have to seek them out, and if there is none to be found, then you have to create them yourself. Look out for official groups of students meeting outside of your scheduled lessons via the internet. If nothing exists, suggest doing so via your course chat room or discussion board. If you are feeling isolated as an online learner, then it’s likely that other students will be too. As a result, they’ll probably jump at the chance to hook up outside of class.
You might even consider meeting up in person. If groups of students are within easy commuting distance of each other, what’s to stop you? Studying history? Go and visit a museum together. Studying art? Head off to a gallery. Studying English literature? Book tickets for a play. The possibilities are endless. If all that sounds complicated to organise (although it really isn’t), you could hold a once-a-month drop in session at a coffee house. It’s not so much what you actually do, but rather it’s about bridging the gap between traditional on-campus learning and online education. It’s about knowing that it’s not just you toiling away at your computer on your own for the next several years. It’s about knowing you’re not alone – thought to be one of the major reasons that students drop out of online education.
Beyond the obvious advantage of fostering a much needed sense of belonging, online (and offline) gatherings over and above scheduled online classes are particularly important for professional reasons. Many online students are older than their counterparts at bricks-and-mortar facilities. In contrast to just starting out in higher education, they may want to change or advance their current career. For those students, professional networking is a must. Joining external clubs and study groups often present an immediate benefit in terms of networking since many students will already be established in their field. As a result, the opportunities to collaborate are vast.
Thanks to the plethora of social networks, the opportunity for online students to connect with their peers are plentiful. Don’t allow yourself to become isolated.