Socialization in Online Learning
As enrollment in online schools continues to grow, so do misconceptions about how students socialize in the world of online education. We took it upon ourselves to seek out five of the most common myths about socialization in online learning — and then debunked them.
Myth #1: Students never see their teachers face to face.
Even though most interaction in an online class takes place virtually, there are plenty of opportunities and resources for students to communicate directly with their peers and teachers. First of all, most online programs offer instructor to student ratios of 1:25 or better, which is on par with college campuses. This gives instructors more opportunities to interact with each of their pupils individually.
When it comes to interaction, most online instructors today embrace high-tech tools in order to engage directly with their students. In addition to email and phone communication, many students are encouraged to speak one-on-one with their teachers through Skype, Google Hangouts, or another video chat platform. Instructors are also known to host chat video sessions with their class and even hold weekly online office hours to make it easier for students to reach out to them directly.
Myth #2: Students only communicate with teachers and rarely with their classmates.
A significant worry when it comes to socialization in online learning environments is that students won’t have opportunities to socialize with their peers. However, most online courses use technology to create group projects that require collaboration among students. Online resources like Google Drive allow students to share documents and work on projects together in real time. Online educators often assign projects and coursework that encourages this kind of interaction among their students. Building this kind of interactivity into the curriculum helps spur socialization among classmates, like forming online study groups or even chatting outside of the educational sphere.
Myth #3: Online learning doesn’t offer student activities or clubs.
If clubs and extracurricular involvement are a priority in your education, then we’ve got good news for you. Despite the misconception that online education limits students to do coursework independently, most online programs are enhanced by web-based, student-formed clubs and groups that meet regularly. Regardless of where you enroll in online education, chances are that you’re entering into an established community of active student-led clubs and interest groups. These groups focus on everything from career advancement to community involvement and usually involve weekly chat sessions as well as video lectures by both faculty and industry professionals.
In addition to online clubs and societies, there are often opportunities for involvement in established campus societies at the accredited institution that offers online programming. For example, ASU Prep Digital students have the opportunity to participate in Arizona State University clubs and extracurriculars like the National Honor Society, Speech and Debate Club, Student Government, and Book and Art Clubs either online or on campus. Participation in these activities is one, of several, ways that students can access opportunities for socialization in online learning environments.
Myth #4: Students in online learning environments aren’t exposed to diversity.
One of the great benefits of any campus experience is the exposure to a student body brimming with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. One concern with online education as that confining most of the educational experience to a computer screen will cut a student off from the diverse community they would find at a brick-and-mortar high school campus. The reality is that online programs not only offer similar diversity as their physical counterparts, but they also offer a kind of diversity not found at typical campuses. Students of online courses come from across the world, so in many ways, these digital environments attune students to a more globalized mindset.
Myth #5: Online education doesn’t prepare students for social interactions in the “real world.”
Not only do online courses from reputable institutions have the same curriculum and material as their brick and mortar counterparts, but they also require additional self-direction when it comes to communication. With fewer reminders about due dates and course expectations, students must take time management into their own hands and be more proactive about engaging with their teachers and peers in order to succeed. Also, since online classes force teachers to think differently about communication, it often leads them to be more active and creative in effectively engaging with their students. Ultimately, communicating primarily through the virtual space mimics the way students will communicate with peers and colleagues in the professional world after they graduate.