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4 Ways to Avoid Isolation as an Online Student

Feeling lonely as an online student? Here's what you can do to stay connected when you're not learning together in a physical classroom.

Universities have long offered online education, and many students choose to earn their degrees in virtual classrooms. But that number increased drastically as a result of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. High schools and colleges across the country shut down in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, with many institutions closing indefinitely. As a result, teachers had to create online lesson plans to share with their students, and colleges finished up their semesters online. Even after the pandemic ended, some students and colleges chose to stick with this convenient digital learning format.

While many high school and college students are used to online classes, many have to learn to adjust to this more independent—and sometimes isolating—experience. 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 students seeking a collaborative, social experience, the isolation of online learning can also be a real concern. Here are four tips to help you stay connected to your class as an online student.

1. Stay in touch with your professors

It’s important to keep communicating with 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 professors, you'll continue to build bonds 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 provide 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, 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, and more virtually. You can also ask if they can help you get in touch with alumni.

4. Step away from the computer

You don’t have to be glued to your screen all day just because you're learning online. Step outside, take a walk, read your textbook on your porch…do whatever you can to beat cabin fever and get through a long school day. If you live close to the physical campus, don't be afraid to visit and take advantage of your college's activities and resources too!

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

It’s easy for online students to fly under the radar, 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!

Thinking about earning your advanced degree online? Check out these Great Graduate Schools With Fully Online Programs.

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