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Virtual Student? How to Connect with other Virtual Students

As a student, building social networks with your peers and instructors is an important part of the education experience. The only problem is you’re a virtual student—and proud of it—but you still crave the social connections that are common in a traditional higher education environment. What can you do?

Social Media
Social media is no longer reserved for giggly teenagers who engage in poke wars and party pumping coeds. There is legitimate value and quality connections to be had.

Your school’s Facebook page is a great place to connect with your fellow students and alumni. Your school might also post information about the latest events and news, which can help you feel more connected and “in the know.” Another great Facebook feature is Groups. Whether it’s a large group for all students or a smaller study group for students in a specific program, joining or starting a Facebook group for your school can help you build those important connections.

As of December 2012, this go-to network for working professionals has more than 200 million members in over 200 countries and territories. Like Facebook, your school may have a LinkedIn profile and/or group for students, alumni and faculty, but the overall tone of the network is more professional and networking-focused.

School Communication Tools
Discussion Boards
Many online schools rely on discussion boards for group assignments and course communication; however, you may be able to use this tool outside the classroom as well. Whether you have a question about an assignment, want to discuss your latest research or just need to vent, you may find fellow students who can offer some much-needed encouragement or insight.

Take the initiative to email your instructors and classmates if you have questions or just want to reach out. You can’t expect them to come to you. If you want to make social connections, you may need to make the first move.

Professional Associations
You probably won’t use this tool to connect with other online students at your school, but joining a professional organization is a great way to network with people in your field. “Professional organizations offer students many benefits, including networking, socialization into the profession, workshops, exposure to “hot off the press” research findings and career assistance,” explains Northcentral University’s Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Heather Frederick. Need some ideas? Ask your instructors if they are members of any organizations or have any suggestions.

Alumni Association
Are you getting ready to graduate and think you’ve missed the boat on forming these social connections? Don’t worry. Most colleges and universities have an alumni association that offers a way to stay connected long after you’ve graduated. You may also find career resources and mentoring opportunities.

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