I work for a couple of question and answer sites where a user will ask a question and I will attempt to answer it with the best possible answer. Lately, I have been getting several questions about how to interact online with your online college peers and also what ways they can use to create an online study group environment. I actually achieved my master’s degree online and I realize that this is a huge challenge for online student to overcome, so I thought I would share some the different ways I was able to overcome this barrier while I was in college.
Online colleges have what is called a group project assignment and they throw this assignment in there so students will get an idea of what it is like to organize and coordinate with group meetings in real life. The college gives you a virtual group discussion area where you can interact with your group members by scheduling meeting dates. They also provide their group project teams with an interactive discussion board, where you can post forums to talk about different aspects of the assignment. The best online chatting tools I would use for the group assignment were emails (personal and through the school virtual campus), the discussion board, and the group discussion area. I even had a couple of groups that would use conference calls. Conference calls are a 1-800 number that you can obtain through your phone company and it allows you to talk to multiple people at the same time and they can also talk to each other during the calls. So it is like you all are actually in a meeting room, discussing the project at hand.
Forming interactive study groups was another obstacle that I found to be hard to manage as an online student. In a regular brick and mortar college you are able to go to the library or over to someone’s house and have study group time, but in a virtual college, these types of things are generally not possible. So to overcome this barrier, I would use the net meeting function and the yahoo messenger private chat function. Net meeting is a software package that is encrypted into your XP windows version and it allows you to interact with others in a meeting type environment. It was a very effective way for a group of us to get together and study. The other way we would hold study groups is through the yahoo private chat function. I have not used yahoo for awhile and I know they changed a lot of their functions, but I think this function still remains. You should be able to initiate a private chat with a person in the tools of your IM window. This function allows you to have voice and written chats at the same time. You are also able to invite others into the private chat. The one barrier I found this type of online chatting was that not everyone had a yahoo account. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? But it was true and forming study groups, using this function, was hard at times. But I think nowadays, just about everyone who is attending a college has had or does have a yahoo account.
Another way college students can chat amongst each other is by using the virtual college’s messenger system. I went to Colorado Technical University and on their virtual campus they had a messenger system that students could use to interact with each other. You could even interact with your professor on this system, outside of class. This was a great way to chat with my classmates and also be able to interact with the instructor outside of class. We would also use yahoo messenger as well, because sometimes we were not logged into the campus to be able to use the instant messenger system there.
Going to college online has its ups and down and in my opinion, online colleges hold several barriers that online students have to overcome. The good news is that there are very simple ways that you can utilize to overcome some of these barriers.