If you’re transitioning to online learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, we hope you find these tips useful to maintain connections and relationships with your professors and fellow students in a virtual space.
As technology advances, online education is becoming more popular than ever. Online programs and schools create new ways for students to pursue higher education in a manner that fits their lifestyle—including students who otherwise may not have access to higher education at all. Because of the benefits, online universities are becoming more credible in the workforce, with many employers now viewing accredited online institutions as on par with traditional brick and mortar schools.
There are many differences between traditional and online degree programs, but one of the major ones is the way students network and interact with one another. In conventional settings, students can talk to each other in class, see a professor after a lecture to ask questions, or head to the advisement office to connect with a mentor. In an online setting, there are still plenty of opportunities for students to network and make connections; they just have to approach them a little differently. Let's look at four simple and effective ways online students can foster relationships and build their network.
1. Utilize school resources
Most online schools offer a range of resources to help students network, such as LinkedIn and Facebook groups, chat rooms within their student portal, and discussion boards. If you're an online student, it's critical to ask about and utilize these resources to establish connections and create relationships with your fellow students. These resources may also be available for alumni, allowing online students to network and make connections that could lead to relevant job opportunities down the line, even after graduation.
2. Use social media to connect
If you're in an online class or on a school discussion board, make sure to chat with other students as much as you can. Then take it a step further by asking to connect with them on social media. Social media is a great place to connect and deepen peer relationships. Connect on LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter, or become Facebook friends. These online schoolmates can be great resources for discussing schoolwork, projects, and job opportunities.
3. Build a rapport with professors and faculty
Online professors are as eager to connect with their students as traditional professors. They typically provide email addresses or chat options to students for a reason, so use them! Reach out to your professors with questions, and work one-on-one with them to make sure you understand all the material correctly.
Many online schools also have advisors or mentors who will work with you and answer all your questions. Connecting with these faculty members via email or even phone chats can help you navigate your college experience more easily. Take advantage of the opportunity and get to know the mentors and professors at your online school—you'll be more successful when you enlist their help.
4. Don't be afraid to start up a conversation
Joining online study groups or sending emails to classmates you don't have personal relationships with can be nerve-wracking. But keep in mind that they’re students just like you looking to network and make connections too. You just have to take the plunge and start the conversation! (This applies to your professors too, who are eager to answer questions and have discussions with you.) Finding the courage to ask a question or start a friendship can transform your education and career path.
When you're an online student, networking is key to having a positive experience that sets the stage for your future. Your professors and classmates want to network as much as you do, so get up the courage and go for it. You never know how a relationship might change your future.
For more career and networking advice, check out our Internships and Careers section.