Do you work best when you can bounce ideas back and forth between colleagues? Are you considering enrolling in an online degree program, but unsure if the distance between you and your classmates and professor could be a problem? Those questions definitely washed through my brain as I pondered the option of online learning. I love working within a group, or brainstorming with others, and was a little scared at the thought of being on my own in this adventure.
Collaboration is a BEAUTIFUL thing! So, as an online student like me, you may be wondering: how is it possible to find a study buddy? How can I study with people who live all over the U.S.A.? I asked myself that same question last March when I started my online Master’s program.
If you are unfamiliar with online learning, a majority of your "classroom time" occurs through video presentations and peer reviews and peer responses to those videos. For example, I would be assigned an intro video to tell the class about myself, and I would also be responsible for replying to two classmates’ video presentations. At first, I tried to respond to all of my classmates during the eight-week course. After completing a few classes, I noticed my attention being drawn to like-minded classmates or those who frequently responded to my posts. As I progressed through course after course, I began to notice the same names on the class roster.
My first step to connecting with a classmate stemmed from a peer response to my introduction video. I felt that we were on the same page, so I simply pulled her name from the roster, accessed our email through Engage, and shot her a message. We emailed back and forth for a few weeks and then decided it was easier to just talk on the phone. Now we call each other often, especially when a course instruction or assigned task is unclear, or to mull over content for papers and assignments.
In a traditional classroom, it is pretty easy to connect to your classmates, since they are sitting right near you. Online classes can sometimes make you feel very alone, especially when you have a question that is so important and you feel you need that answer right away. Challenges of online learning can include: limitations of interacting through just the written word; Engage issues that sometimes prevent you from submitting an assignment; and accessing the library resources. All these things take time to become comfortable with and sometimes require troubleshooting. When in doubt, call and reach out for support from classmates, professors, or the OLLU Help Desk.
In your effort to find a study buddy, be bold and don’t be afraid to just ask! Engage provides a few places to begin your efforts. The student lounge is a good place to start; everyone in the course can see your post, even your professor. Your Instructor is also there for you to connect with the professor and classmates, or you could email or Skype them for more information.
As social work graduate students, we have the advantageous position of investing our education in a profession that is HELPFUL, so keep that in mind when you are feeling lonely. Reaching out to a fellow classmate for their take on the assignment requirements, opinions on issues or other support can boost your productivity and your ego as you step forward into a fulfilling career. Your career will continue beyond online courses; but you can make a network of people now if you actively reach out and support one another. One day, your paths may cross; you may work together again or be able to help each other out in any number of ways in the future. Professional connections can be the key to landing that job you want, or even helping a future client!