Most people find that distance learning is a great opportunity for them to earn a degree, enhance their personal knowledge, and increase their job skills. There are many great opportunities for a quality education through distance learning, but there can be a few drawbacks.
One of the most interesting experiences in an in-class education is the wide variety of people you meet. Not only does your instructor have a wealth of knowledge that comes out is stories and other side comments, your fellow students have an abundance of practical experiences and points of view.
Most online classes utilize a discussion board or forum where you can interact with others taking the same course. It is very important to reach out to your fellow classmates and make a connection with some of them. Class participation is extraordinarily valuable.
On the discussion board:
Early in your class, post a greeting and a little personal information. It is smart to write about your home life, career history, and interests. Also, you may want to write a few lines about what you hope to learn from the class. Please don’t post your personal information such as your birth date, address, and phone number. If these are relevant you should send them by email.
By writing this introduction you are trying to find others in your classes who have similar ideas. This will lead to, if not a friendship, then a common understanding and trust.
Throughout the class:
Be sure to reach out to others who have posted introductions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t take it personal if they do not respond. There are many roadblocks to online communication. Chances are, a lot of your classmates will not be familiar with discussion boards and many functions of their computer.
You may find that some people prefer to use email rather than post their thoughts for everyone to read. This is a great way to build personal connections. Your fellow students may need to ask questions about the class or blow off a little steam. They probably do not want the instructor to build a negative opinion of them based on their frustration or lack of understanding.
Use this as a way to share ideas and build common ground. The key is, be consistent in your email and show a knowledge of the topics being discussed. Check your email regularly and don’t be afraid to reach out to others in your class.
Other methods of communicating:
If you are familiar with instant messaging you may want to bring this option to the class. You can suggest a time and date when everyone can get together in a mutually used program such as Yahoo! Messenger. This is the closest you may get to having peers in a live situation. They are often times fun and enjoyable.
Group meetings also serve this purpose. If your class is based in a local area, you may want to organize a study group. You can meet at the college library or select another mutual location. Again, these are great for building relationships.