Making Connections

By the time you read this post, our new semester will be well underway. Festive social occasions have been replaced by reading, typing, and juggling multiple roles and responsibilities. Welcome back to being an adult learner! You’re in good company. Sometimes we don’t realize just how many of us are out there, especially when we’re studying quietly at home in front of a computer instead of being among a group of learners in a classroom.

My name is Debra Mynar, but most people know me as Deb. I am currently studying Adult Education and Distance Education in a graduate program here at World Campus. It has been over four years since I walked back into the local admissions office after a 20 year hiatus and, in May 2010, I was among the first group of graduates from the Psychology degree programs.

My experience as a returning adult learner has fundamentally changed the person that I am and, eventually, helping other adult learners on their journeys became a vocation that I could not deny.

Tips for connecting with peers:

  1. Don’t be Afraid. Reach out to other learners. Your peers are a rich information resource and many of them will be happy to help. After all, they know how it feels! Most courses have an open discussion forum where students can “talk.” I see this as a real advantage to online learning because you can ask a question at midnight if you need to! You don’t have to wait for the next class period!
  2. Make Connections. Use the introduction posts to connect with other learners and make a special note when you find someone with a similar background or interest. Get to know them better by asking questions, just like you might do if you sat next to each other in a lecture hall.
  3. Keep Them Growing. After you have closed the books on a few classes, check the course roster and introduction posts for familiar names. Reconnect directly through course email and you already have the beginning of a study group!
  4. Make it Social. Once you have made connections inside ANGEL, consider connecting outside of ANGEL. If you use any of the popular social networking sites, interacting with peers outside of the course gives you an opportunity to get to know each other on a more social level.
  5. Connect Outside Your Courses. Speaking of social networking sites, visit the World Campus page on Facebook and post your interest in connecting with other World Campus learners. This will give you the opportunity to connect with learners that you may have never encountered in your classes.
  6. Pay it Forward. Once you have your own support network in place, don’t forget to reach out to new students. They will appreciate a word of encouragement from you!

Tips for connecting with faculty and staff:

  1. Be Assertive. Reach out to your instructors through e-mail by asking pertinent questions. If you have a question on the material that falls outside the scope of the course, ask the instructor privately.
  2. Express an Interest. If you have an interest in learning more about a specific knowledge area, then voice it and ask your instructor to recommend additional resources.
  3. Make a Good Impression. If you want to be remembered, then go the extra mile. Respond when your instructor asks a question. Be an active member in your learning community!
  4. Get Involved. Be open to new opportunities. When you get involved, you broaden your learning network and meet new people! Attend a Blue & White meeting, join a committee working on the World Campus fundraising effort for THON, check out available clubs, or start a study group!

Considering my own research focus on building online learning communities, anyone who knows me as an adult learner might be surprised to learn that I am an introvert. Though I usually shy away from social gatherings, I will always fondly remember my first opportunities to finally meet people in-person after becoming friends online.

From several fellow learners and friends, to my academic adviser, to mentors, to the professor who handed me my diploma, my own experiences are proof that it is possible to build quality relationships with peers, faculty, and staff when studying in an online learning environment. Take that first step. It’s worth it!