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4 Ways to Avoid Isolation as an Online Student

Feeling lonely as a new online student? Here's what you can do to stay connected and plan for when campuses open back up again during the coronavirus pandemic.

Universities have long offered online education, and many students choose to earn their degrees in virtual classrooms. But that number has increased drastically as a result of the 2020 novel coronavirus outbreak. High schools and colleges across the country have shut down in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, with many institutions planning to remain closed indefinitely. As a result, teachers are creating online lesson plans to share with their students, and college classes are now finishing up their semesters online.

While many high school and college students are used to online classes, the majority will have to adjust to this more independent—and isolated—learning format. There are plenty of benefits to online learning—flexibility, affordability, and convenience being just a few. But there are some disadvantages as well, as many students aren’t used to this type of learning or may not have the necessary resources at home. For a student seeking a collaborative, social experience, the isolation of online learning can also be a real concern. Here’s how you can stay connected as a new online student and plan for when you can step foot on campus again.  

1. Stay in touch with your professors

It’s important to keep communicating to your teachers and professors in an e-learning format. As an online student, you’ll have to try harder to stand out from your classmates, but if you communicate regularly and thoughtfully with your professor, you will continue to build a bond that could last long after you’ve turned in your final papers. Show initiative by taking part in open forums and chats, volunteering for extra credit projects, and turning in high-quality work. Also ask your professors if they are providing virtual office hours through video chat if communicating and asking questions through email just doesn’t cut it. 

Related: What Questions Should I Ask My Academic Advisor?

2. Organize a virtual study group

Study groups often develop organically in traditional classrooms, but they can be a bit trickier to arrange virtually. How do you actually study with someone else online? Your professor may be your first ally here, especially with big lecture classes—ask them if they can help you get in touch with other students who may be interested in forming a study group. If there’s a class discussion board, post a short message advertising your idea. You could host regular discussions on Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, or a school-hosted forum. Your grades will benefit from the extra attention, and you’ll get to know a few of your classmates while you’re at it.

3. Explore your school’s networking resources

Even when you’re physically on campus, it takes an ambitious sort of student to get involved with a school’s networking resources. But between classes and social events, it’s easy enough to make new contacts every day. As an online student during this unprecedented time, networking is just as important to developing a solid base of professional contacts that will benefit you in the future. Contact your career services office through email to see if they can help with your résumé, interview practice, etc. virtually. You can also ask if they can help you get in touch with alumni. Your career planning shouldn’t halt just because campus has closed! 

4. Step away from the computer

You don’t have to be glued to your screen all day just because school has transitioned to the web and you’re confined to your home. Step outside, take a walk, read your textbook on your porch…do whatever you can to beat cabin fever and get through this weird and uncertain situation. Life as we knew it will return, and you’ll be back on campus eventually!

Related: 10 Things You Can Do as Part of a Healthy Routine 

It’s easy for online students to fly under the radar for the rest of the year, but that doesn’t mean they should. Luckily, e-learning isn’t just limited to students staring at their computer screens. Schools are embracing innovative new technologies to give online students a more interactive experience, but it’s up to you to embrace those opportunities. Best of luck with the rest of the school year—you can do this! 

Check out our COVID-19 resource list for students, and feel free to email us if you need a friend. We're all in this together! 

This piece has been updated from the original article.

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