Online learning programs are a great way to pursue academic studies without enrolling in a campus-based program, but it is important to take advantage of communication platforms in order to avoid isolation.
Introduction to Online Learning
A substantial number of traditional colleges and universities now offer online programs or standalone courses in subjects as varied as literature, mathematics, engineering, allied health, teacher preparation, chemistry and even gardening. Distance learning has had such an impact on education that there are now high schools and colleges that have no brick-and-mortar campus. While certain fields of study do require at least some level of on-site instruction or training, there is a huge selection of options that can be completed totally online thanks to various technologies.
The ability to take courses in a virtual environment often offers a great deal of flexibility and independence for online students. Schools generally use a course management system to create an online classroom environment that contains lectures, assignments, tests or quizzes and other learning materials that an instructor may upload. Although distance learners often need to stick to course due dates, they can generally access course materials any time of day.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Biological and Biomedical Sciences
- Communications and Journalism
- Computer Sciences
- Culinary Arts and Personal Services
- Liberal Arts and Humanities
- Mechanic and Repair Technologies
- Medical and Health Professions
- Physical Sciences
- Transportation and Distribution
- Visual and Performing Arts
To avoid isolation in your online course, it is important to participate fully in online communication forums. Most classes provide a means to communicate both with teachers and other students, and some classes require a minimum amount of participation to earn a passing grade. Generally, these methods of communicating are intended for a discussion of class topics, and some instructors may encourage students to offer suggestions and feedback on particular lessons or assignments. Often, online communication is facilitated through the following platforms:
- Class message boards
- Instant messenger
- Class chat rooms
- Live voice chats
- Video conferencing using webcams
While online programs are not ideal for maintaining purely social interaction with others, they can provide a way to get to know fellow students who have similar interests and goals. Opportunities may be available for professional networking or to form friendships with students that go beyond coursework discussions.
Social Activity Outside of Class
While distance learning students have multiple options for communicating with classmates and instructors virtually, those seeking more traditional social interactions may want to schedule in-person meetings or study sessions. Online students who live in the same area may choose to:
- Work on assignments or research projects at a local library
- Host study groups at a coffee shop or cafe to prepare for exams
- Take field trips to museums or landmarks that are related to course topics
In summary, to avoid academic and social isolation while taking an online course, it is important for students to fully engage in online discussions. When taking an online class where most of the students live near each other, it may also be helpful to set up group activities.