Let’s face it – it’s a matter of time before the majority of schools and universities transfer their classes online. The 2020 pandemic only helped to escalate things. As it stands, more and more students are opting to go virtual, and a good number of parents and guardians are finding this the more reliable option. That said, studying online can be pretty frustrating.
Not only do you have to manage with all the distractions at home, but you also need to find different ways to keep yourself motivated to learn. That is one thing students will probably miss the most about in-person learning. You had the chance to meet up and talk about everything other than school, plan parties, night-outs, and everything else that can be counted as fun. The dynamics are a bit different when it comes to virtual learning, but online learning is the future of education.
This article is here to provide a rough roadmap of what it looks like to connect with others in the virtual space because that is almost as equally important as learning. Hey, remember, all work no play makes you a dull student. Similarly, all learn no connect makes you a lonely student. Let’s assume you get the rhyme. 😎
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Why is Networking Important? 3 Crucial Reasons
Online learning is one area schools and universities are now beginning to consider seriously. It is currently estimated that the field has grown by 900% since 2000, with the European and US markets accounting for more than 70% of global market share. This presents a lot of opportunities for growth and development in education.
But why is networking really so important in online education?
1. Boosts Diversity in Distance Learning
Virtual learning has opened the door for students coming from lower-income homes and living far off to continue their education in the school of their choice. Institutions had to grapple with numerous admission rates and were made to set exceptionally high standards to be admitted. This deterred many qualified students from joining such institutions.
Virtual learning has successfully eliminated the borders in education, allowing students worldwide to apply to top institutions. Such multifariousness improves the richness of cultures and intellect as students acquire perspectives from all around.
2. Improves Communication and Collaboration
If you’re hooked on your screens for the better part of the day, you can be sure some other student across the globe is as well. This opens the door for constant communication amongst students, and educators too. That helps the students conquer any communication anxiety they may have when talking to others in person. Also, the online space has unlimited access to information: something that someone else does not have or know can be right at your fingertips, just a Google search away.
It’s much easier to seek out help on an online platform where you don’t have to physically feel the presence of the person you’re communicating with. As the student gets used to seeking and giving help, even physical communication skills improve. This is the power of digital learning. What’s more, since there‘s always someone on the other end willing to help out, the learning process becomes smoother and more robust.
3. Parental Engagement
Education had initially been a communal affair – everyone in the society participated in raising a child properly. The industrial revolution came and individualized education, thereby distancing the parents from their young learners.
Virtual learning seeks to reverse this process while still making education learner-based. Now more than ever, parents have the chance to be more involved in the affairs of their children. Students can readily seek the kind of help they need from their parents since the school passes the information directly to the guardians. Learners need all the help they can get, and networking platforms in virtual learning make this a reality.
Related Read: 9+ Tips for How to Avoid Cabin Fever While Stuck at Home
What is the Proper Approach to Networking in a Virtual Space?
As much as you would like to bring fun into the picture, clear lines have to be drawn between the learning platforms and private life. This has deterred most students from using their personal social networks in learning platforms since they wouldn’t want anything that happens in Vegas to get out of Vegas.
There is a right approach to networking in online learning that will ultimately make the learning experience enjoyable and still remain professional. Here are some tips you should consider before you start networking when studying online.
1. Observe Basic Netiquette
When joining any community, you want to reap the most benefits possible. This means that your goal should not be to seek help with your assignments and projects solely. Instead, you should focus on the long-term goal and view your new community as lifelong friends and acquaintances who may be meaningful connections tomorrow. One thing you should keep in mind is that the internet will never forget your digital footprint.
That said, you need to approach the new community in a respectful manner cherishing the diverse backgrounds found therein. Be open to different points of view and fight off that urge to always disagree with everything said. If asked to air out your thoughts, be honest, and communicate respectfully while remaining relevant to the topic of discussion. Empowerment is the key to a healthy online community.
There is nothing as draining as communicating with people who cannot respond. You know how rude it feels when someone blue-ticks your conversations. To avoid that, be as responsive as you can and frequently check the online platform to establish your presence.
2. Prepare Beforehand
A mix of opportunity and preparation often helps a person rise to success. What does this mean? If you know you will have a group discussion, a class, or an online activity, it is best to prepare beforehand by getting the particulars of that event. Understand what the topic of discussion is going to be. Conduct your research on the people who will be present and their area of expertise.
But why is all that important? Online networking may only give you a short window of opportunity when it is your turn to speak. Furthermore, the right to speak is not necessarily equally distributed. You wouldn’t want to use that opportunity to ask baseless questions or make irrelevant comments. You may never get such an opportunity, especially if there is a renowned guest speaker. Gather your information beforehand and always come to class armed to the T.
3. Why Be So Serious?
Remember, this is not an annual general meeting of education stakeholders. This is a portal for brilliant young minds to come together and share unique ideas and exchange thoughts. This is the one place you are likely to meet like-minded people.
That said, ask open-ended questions from time to time and let the conversation wander. It’s much harder to monitor communication cues in an online platform as compared to face-to-face since you may not read the body language. Wait for others to answer questions before you jump in by recognizing the right time to speak.
Ask hard, thought-provoking questions that bring out emotions and enable the group to experience epiphanies. Share the joy and sadness of others and communicate with members at an individual level – go out of your way to build tight relationships with students and lecturers alike. The world is getting much smaller, after all.
Tools to Get you Started
The more people become tech-savvy, the more the numbers of social media users. Institutions and professors are now going out of their way to make the virtual learning experience more delightful than in-person learning. As you commence your virtual classes, make sure you confirm from your department or professor for any discussion forums, resources, relevant web links, bookmarks, templates, and poll sites.
Some of the best “tools” you may find useful for networking while studying online are those you use on a daily basis – social media.
This is probably the most popular social media platform that both teachers and students use (albeit students less and less). The most used feature, when it comes to networking while studying, are Facebook groups for discussions, fun-talk, interesting hashtags, assignment notices, or simply sharing online resources. If you are going to be a part of a group like that, be sure to read the group rules before you post anything.
Most social platforms have an algorithm controlled and supported by the host. With Reddit, things are quite different. The algorithm allows users to be fully in charge of the kind of experience they will have. For networking purposes, join a subreddit community of your choice related to your school, Uni, or the field you are studying. Join in conversations, ask questions and exchange knowledge with students from around the world.
YouTube is a free platform and now acts as Khan Academy for learners. Here, the learner can access a series of learning videos and also join those learning communities. The beauty of using YouTube is that the student gets a wide variety of instructors who have different teaching techniques and willing to deliver the same subject. Beyond being the source of information and knowledge, YouTube helps the learner network with these communities also.
Go Out and Conquer
Since you obviously won’t be joining a welcome party at the campus or attending guest speaker classes in a classroom full of students ready to jump on the discussion – you have to make the most of it from the comfort of your home. In 2020 students are lucky enough to have access to the internet, a lot of tools and knowledge and colleagues from all over the world just a second away. Use modern technology for learning, but don’t forget to use it for normal human interaction too. Join groups, be a part of discussions, don’t forget to follow the netiquette and make the most out of this new normal.
This article on how to network online when studying from home was written by Anita Sambol. With years of experience as a content strategist and creator, Anita has a ‘super-power’ of being a clear human voice for brands when talking to their audience. One of the projects she currently enjoys the most is being a content associate to EU Business School, where she’s also including her own experience from student and business life.