Communicating with Classmates in Online Courses

The advent of online courses has opened so many doors for a wide range of students. Typical undergraduate students can take a course at another school in a different part of the country, while individuals just testing the waters of going back to school can take a course from the comforts of their own home to get their feet wet back in the world of academia. Whatever your reasons for taking an online course, you need to treat it just like any traditional course you have ever taken. A big part of being in a class is communicating with your fellow classmates. You may think it is more challenging to do so when your classmates may span the globe, but the exchanging of ideas is still readily available.

Your first step should be set up a personal profile that introduces yourself to your classmates and instructor. Most online classes use a program like Blackboard where you can set up a profile where you can share information about you as a student and as a person. It might be helpful to post a picture of yourself so you can help other students make a connection with you. It is likely that you will not know anyone else in your class, so be proactive in the message boards that your instructor sets up. These message boards are designed to foster a "class discussion" in an online forum. Read everyone’s posts and see if there are any fellow students with whom you seem to connect.

The message boards have a function where you can email a person directly to ask a follow-up question. This is a great way to start making relationships with some of your classmates. The beauty of these message boards is when the thread of discussion really starts to build up momentum. Not only does this show your professor that the class is engaged in the material, it helps students get a feel for each other. This works just like a discussion in a classroom. However, the message board is not confined to an hour long class; the message board will be posted throughout the semester so students can return to a key point at any time. It is also a great tool for students when they are writing papers as they can return to a conversation that may have happened a couple months ago.

Try to forge at least two solid relationships in your online class. This allows you to have someone you can turn to if you are having trouble with the material. You can also help each other when papers and projects are coming up. It is recommended that you have at least two people you can turn to because you are at the mercy of them checking their email. If one person is away for a couple of days, you can always turn to the other person if you are in need of help.

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