Sometimes, learning and teaching from a distance can be a challenging experience when that lonely feeling starts creeping in. If you are used to teaching and learning in a traditional context, the good news is that with more than 7.1 million students who are enrolled in at least one online course in the USA alone (i), you don’t have to feel lonely anymore.
There are numerous ways to engage in online academics and plenty of resources to get started; some within yourself and some just a mouse click away!
Our first piece of advice, whether you are a student or a teacher is to reach out to the school’s community by using the social media tools at your disposal. Horizons University has its own Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, LinkedIn page, and even a Pinterest account where you can share, comment and join discussions or just hear what your fellow colleagues and students have to say. Feel free to express yourself! We invite you to join our brand new LinkedIn group to meet alumni, current students, professors, professionals in all fields related to the programs we offer. Time to take that first step and create your account to join our ever-growing community!
Our online learning platform, available to our students and facilitators alike, integrates its own forum in each and every course. The forum is a dedicated space where you can meet your fellow learners and your professor. At the same time, the Participants field in each and every Moodle-based course offers the opportunity to send private messages to all the participants in a given course (students, facilitator, administrators).
Sharing personal information online is also important when reaching out to others. Putting a face on a name is helpful and encourages trust, so you may want to make sure you send us your best profile picture (make sure you are not wearing those sunglasses…)! At Horizons University, learners can access and edit their profile in Moodle whenever they wish to. It is advisable that they come back regularly to their profile details and update them to make sure they match with their current situation.
Come back regularly, be active and even proactive online and in your life in general, taking full advantage of the networks around you. Talk to other students, write to them, be curious about their learning experience, the tools they use to learn, their learning routine, what works for them or does not work for them. Think about your Student Premier at Horizons University, your preferred point of contact, someone who is ready to point in the right direction, to listen to and answer your questions, together with your facilitator. The same applies to professors! When teaching, they have access to all the school’s resources and can share their experiences with their peers both within Horizons University and outside, in their community, professional societies and associations.
Let others know that you are an online student or facilitator: family, friends, acquaintances. Your project will certainly arise curiosity, questions, interest… and generate external support and extra motivation!
Participate in events to meet other online students or facilitators: webinars, student and academic professional fairs, professional events, conferences, publish in journals, blogs…
Last but not least, a bit of psychology: wear your school colours and display that Yearbook of yours to feel like a part of the team! A Horizons University sweatshirt, t-shirt or ring tells others about your current learning or teaching commitment and – just as importantly – tells you that you are not alone.
Why is it so important to feel like part of a group when studying or teaching online? Aside from the fact that human beings are social beings, who can learn and evolve by being in contact with their peers and by relating to their immediate environment, at Horizons University we want to make sure learners stay engaged throughout their enrollment, facilitators throughout their career, and that we are here to help everyone, especially you, achieve their goals.
(i) Source: 2013 Babson Survey Research Group’s annual Survey of Online Learning