If the COVID pandemic has taught us anything, it is the importance of developing community. As social creatures, humans need to connect to feel happy and healthy. In times of stress, the availability of positive human interaction can mean the difference between success and failure.
Thus, when you are embarking on a journey through online education, you need to know how to craft a developing community among your fellow students, your professors, and other professional peers. Because having a community can be so beneficial in achieving success, you can use the following tips for forging a strong connection amongst your cohort.
Reach out to Fellow Students Immediately
As soon as your course begins, you should reach out to the other students in your class. At this point, most of your fellow students are feeling the same lack of developing community as you, and they are eager to make connections that can benefit them during their learning experience. If the professor offers the opportunity to introduce yourself or participate in an icebreaker exercise, you should use it as a platform for reaching out to your fellow students and providing a way to connect outside of class. Otherwise, you should be able to find the names of your fellow students within your online course, or you can contact your professor or teaching assistant to help get in contact with your classmates.
Participate Actively in Course Assignments
Introductions and icebreakers are not the only course assignments that you should take an active interest in. By participating enthusiastically in course activities, you position yourself as a leader within the digital classroom, and other students will gravitate toward you for guidance and support. Likely, you will encounter students reaching out to you for assistance in understanding concepts or completing tasks; even if you cannot provide the help they require, you can form relationships that improve everyone’s ability to complete the course successfully.
Take Advantage of Social Media to Connect
Social media is the most straightforward service for maintaining relationships with your online classmates. Though you are likely to interact with students in your course through online discussion boards built into the learning platform, these spaces do not facilitate more personal interactions. You might create a private group on Facebook, WhatsApp, or Discord, where the members of your student community can chat about class assignments, personal challenges, or more casual topics. Social media is free and easy to use, so anyone in your course can join and feel connected to your new developing community.
Organize a Student Meetup
If you learn that a number of your classmates live nearby, you might consider arranging an in-person get-together. Meeting face-to-face helps strengthen relationships, and it can be beneficial to share the same physical space when you are studying together for a difficult exam or collaborating on a group project. You might plan a regular meetup, if everyone is agreeable, at a coffee shop or library. Then again, if most of your developing community is geographically separated, you can consider digital meetups through services like Zoom.
It is important that you meet with your developing community to commiserate, but it is equally important to celebrate. For example, when the course concludes, you should meet up with your classmates for a final time and share a drink or treat to applaud your shared effort and accomplishment.
Select Additional Courses Together
It is natural for connections made in the classroom to dissolve once the course concludes. The easiest way to maintain relationships with your fellow online students is to continue learning together. The members of your student developing community with similar goals might consider enrolling in additional online short courses that provide the knowledge and skills you need to advance your careers. Within each course, you will have the opportunity to bring in new additions to your community and expand your personal and professional network while adding to your credentials and capability.
If COVID has negatively impacted your social confidence, you are not alone. Almost everyone is eager to form connections, even students enrolled in an online course. By taking the initiative to meet with your classmates, you will create lasting connections that can benefit you in your course and beyond.