4 Tips for Making Friends in Your Online Class

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Online classes are made up of a community of students, just like any traditional classroom. Thanks to social media, interactive online tools, and digital curriculum design, students have plenty of opportunities to help facilitate making friends with their virtual classmates.

Being proactive about forming friendships goes a long way when you learn online. Here are four tips for building friendships with your digital peers. 

1. Connect on social media. 

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are already cornerstones of interaction for friends IRL. In fact, a third of the 76% of teenagers who use social media say they spend time with friends through social media every day. Social networking apps are a key place where friends interact and express themselves, so connecting with classmates through these online platforms is a great way to build deeper relationships and make new friends outside of school.

Social media is even being embraced by online professors, who encourage students to introduce themselves to classmates via Instagram, or engage in course-related discussions using Twitter or Google Hangouts. Connecting with your peers who are comfortable doing so is a good first step to getting to know one another better and making friends in your online course.

2. Join a virtual club. Or, better yet, start your own!

There’s a giant community of online students out there, and many of them are members of student-created clubs and organizations centered around professional development and student networking. These groups often host video lectures featuring faculty members or industry professionals, and sometimes even plan events where members can meet in person. If you and your classmates are interested in similar subjects, then getting active in, or even leading one of these clubs, is a great way to get to know each other. But what if you can’t find a club to fit your passions or interests? Go ahead…start your own! Making friends usually begins with having shared interests. Many online high schools, including ASU Prep Digital, will provide faculty advisors to help students establish new student clubs. Taking the initiative is not only good for your social life, it’s also a great resume builder for your college apps.

3. Use the resources available through your online classes. 

Thankfully, most of today’s virtual classrooms have been developed with student collaboration in mind. Many online courses have discussion boards and live video lessons built into their interface, which students are encouraged to actively use. These tools are not only useful for collaborating and sharing information, but can also be used for non-academic group chats where classmates can interact casually and bond.

4. Plan an in-person meetup.

If you happen to live near your classmates, you can use the tools and resources mentioned above to organize a physical meetup. Having shared experiences away from the academic setting is an ideal way for classmate relationships to evolve into friendships. If you and your online classmates are scattered across a region, then planning a day-trip to meet up or work on a project together at a central location can be an exciting and unique shared experience.

Remember, making friends isn’t always easy and can take time — even in a traditional classroom — but it is certainly untrue to think that being in an online environment removes all opportunities to make friends.

Are you are virtual high school student? If so, we’d love to hear your pro-tips for staying connected with your classmates. Visit our Facebook page and let us now some of the ways you make friends in your online classes.

Our Favorite Extracurricular Activities for Online Learners

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Admit it—when you think about your high school days, you definitely remember the clubs you were part of more than you remember the specific lessons you learned in math class. Extracurricular activities are an important part of high school because they give students a chance to interact with their peers, develop important life skills and explore different interests outside of the classroom. Just like traditional schools, virtual schools also offer a variety of clubs for students to join. Here are six extracurricular activities for online learners that will enhance your child’s online learning experience:

Student Government

If your child is a natural born leader and great at decision making, student government will be a great experience for them. Students will develop and expand their leadership skills, represent the interests of their peers and learn how to make a difference at their school. Some duties of student government include: keeping students informed about news and events, brainstorming fundraising ideas and drafting proposals for in-person events where students connect.

School Newspaper

Extra, extra! Read all about it! Joining the school newspaper gives students the opportunity to hone their writing skills, learn how to perform efficiently under deadlines and keep their peers and teachers updated with school news and events. If they plan on majoring in journalism when they attend college, the pieces they write for the school newspaper can even be used to build their portfolio.

Language Clubs

Is your child a lover of language? Do they want to travel the world and be able to communicate with the locals? Language clubs give students a space to practice the language, learn about the countries that speak the language and explore the different components that make up the cultures, such as music, food, clothing and holidays.

Book Club

Sometimes English class just isn’t enough for the bookworms—and that’s where book club comes to the rescue. Students read and discuss books on a weekly basis through video chat with peers who share their love of reading. They are exposed to different genres and learn how to have intelligent and insightful conversations about what they’re reading.

Academic Clubs

For the students who want to continue their learning beyond the virtual classroom, academic clubs are a great option for an extracurricular activity. In most cases, an academic club will focus on a particular subject, such as math, history or philosophy, and dive deeper than your regular course with expanded lessons, fun games and eye-opening discussions.

Model UN

Has your child ever expressed an interest in learning more about international relations? If so, Model United Nations (UN) is a great place to start. They will have the opportunity to roleplay as delegates for various countries, develop leadership, public speaking, and negotiation skills, and learn the value of teamwork.

While most virtual schools have established clubs that are ready to join, some schools, like ASU Prep Digital, also encourage students to start their own clubs based on their interests.

To find the complete list of extracurricular activities for online learners that ASU Prep Digital offers, please visit our resources page


How Online Clubs Help Students Connect with Their Peers

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It is a common misconception that online high school students miss out on the socialization component that a traditional school offers. However, students are breaking down the digital barrier and proving that participating in online clubs actually enhances the socialization aspect of virtual schooling.

Kathleen Hofmaier, an English teacher at ASU Prep Digital, has witnessed firsthand how joining online clubs has had a positive impact on how her students interact with one another.

“I’m actually an advisor for five online clubs for high school students — Student Government, Journalism/Yearbook Club, Exploring Western Religion Club, Mythology Club, and Book Club,” Hofmaier said. “Students have interests and they want to socialize, so I want to help them in any way that I can.”

Just as traditional schools have clubs that students can participate in, online schools offer the same opportunity to their students. While students may not be meeting face-to-face, they are still just as engaged and excited to connect with their peers.

“The clubs we have are a blend of both teacher initiated and student-initiated,” Hofmaier said. “Students are willing, able, and eager to start clubs that they have a specific interest in and it’s exciting to see them take the initiative.”

In fact, she has helped foster friendships in the clubs she advises because she loves seeing her students getting to know each other outside of their club interactions.

“The student who started the Mythology club, Alexandra Smith, refers to herself as a ‘dragon nerd.’ Her willingness to be so vulnerable and ask for friends is really inspiring,” Hofmaier said. “We had a student enroll late who also claimed to be a ‘dragon nerd’ and I just knew I had to connect them. I helped facilitate the exchanging of emails and now they’re great friends.”

Each club meets once a week over Adobe Connect, a video conference service, which gives students the chance to see and talk to their peers in real time. But is participation in these clubs really enhancing the academic experience for students?

“I definitely see it positively impacting their academic performance,” Hofmaier said. “Because we are spending two to three days a week together, they know they have to have their schoolwork done ahead of time!”

She has also seen her students’ involvement in extracurricular activities help improve their confidence, which has contributed to their success in the classroom.

“I did have one student, Avvy, who was borderline academically–and then he joined student government,” Hofmaier said. “He was at a traditional school last year and ran for vice president and lost, so he was determined to be vice president this time around. We had an election, which he won, and ever since then, he has been phenomenal. He feels empowered and it’s been pretty cool to witness.”

The online learning environment is truly transforming and expanding the idea of socialization.

Since students don’t need to physically sit in class on a weekly basis, it puts the responsibility of engaging with their fellow peers in the students’ hands. While many of them attend their clubs once a week and are content with that amount of interaction, there are some students that go above and beyond.

“Hannah Stewart is the president of our student government and she really wants to get students together and have more of a community. She actually put together this huge proposal for an end of year trip, and I was so impressed with the amount of depth and effort she executed while doing this,” Hofmaier said. “She came up with a trip to San Diego where we visit the museums, tour the different campuses and then maybe do a fun activity, like Disneyland or SeaWorld. Even though it was postponed until next year, it was definitely cool to see them rally together and come up with this proposal for an end of the year trip.”

Attending an online high school puts the power of socialization in the students’ hands and helps them pave the way for a successful high school experience both academically and socially.

Visit our resources page for more information on all of the clubs available to students at ASU Prep Digital.

How Students Interact and Gain Social Skills in Online Classrooms

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Online education is different from traditional schooling in many ways. Class time is spent in front of a computer instead of in a classroom, and interaction between students and teachers usually happens with some degree of separation. Learning, especially in high school, is as much a social experience as it is an intellectual one, and some parents assume that online classes won’t provide the same social skills building opportunities as brick-and-mortar schooling.

And yet, online classes are rife with opportunities for interaction, collaboration and socialization. In fact, online students engage as much as students at traditional educational institutions—they just do it in different ways.

Today’s online courses are designed with student collaboration in mind.

Group projects lead students to collaborate using interactive, cloud-based platforms, interact in real-time using web conferencing apps, and produce online presentations together. Most online classes also have discussion boards integrated into their interface. Embracing these message boards not only helps students achieve academic success, but it also opens the door for the type of casual social interaction that comes naturally in a face-to-face setting. Many classes even have accompanying virtual study groups where students can group chat and study together outside of designated class hours.

If your online high school courses are connected to an accredited university, chances are you’ll have access to a host of official societies, clubs, and extracurricular organizations. For example, ASU Prep Digital students are able to participate in the National Honor Society, Student Government, debate club, and other official campus organizations either in an online or on-site capacity.

For those who are studying remotely or are attending a purely online institution, student-created clubs and organizations can be a valuable asset for community and social interaction. When you enroll in an online class, chances are you’ve also gained access to a variety of peer-led organizations built around student networking and professional development. Many of these clubs also host video lectures featuring faculty members or industry professionals.

And then there are those times when nothing measures up to some good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction.

Lucky, if you’re enrolled in an online program through an in-state college or university, chances are some of your classmates will be local to you. Facebook and other social networking apps make it easy for local students to organize meetups and get to know each other outside of the online space.

Speaking of social media, normal friendships between students usually blossom once the “student” monikers have been dropped and the deeper aspects of their personalities are revealed. Even if none of your classmates live nearby, embracing Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks is a great way to establish relationships both inside and outside of the class setting, which lets your classmates see a well-rounded version of you.

How to Encourage Your Introverted Student to Engage Socially

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Help Your Introverted Student Connect At School and In An Online Learning Environment

We all remember how nerve-racking it was to try and make friends in high school. You would sit next to someone you thought looked friendly and strike up a conversation, hoping your efforts would be reciprocated. With online learning, this task gets a little tougher, especially for introverts. Because they don’t have to physically interact with their peers, it’s easy for introverted students to shy away from engaging socially outside of the online classroom. However, socialization is an important aspect of education, whether a student is physically on campus or in the comfort of their home classroom. Here are four ways you can encourage your introverted student to engage socially with their online high school peers:

Tap Into Their Interests

Introverts are obviously more naturally reserved, so encourage them to engage in activities that not only align with their interest but foster collaboration. By encouraging your student to pursue an activity that is related to one of their interests, you’re gently pushing them toward social interaction while allowing them to feel a sense of familiarity. Do they love reading? Maybe you can suggest joining or starting a book club with fellow students who also love to read. Do they like to write? Maybe they can team up with their peers to start a monthly student newsletter. At ASU Prep Digital, we offer eight clubs that tap into several different interests our students have, so there’s a little something for everyone.

Understand Their Limitations

Generally, introverts tend to feel drained after spending a lot of time around other people and in busy social situations.Do they interact better in a smaller group of people? Do they do better with 1-on-1 interactions? How much alone time do they need to recharge their social batteries? Working with their limitations will not only help them enjoy being social, but also want to be social.  Forcing them to interact with fellow virtual school students will make it feel like a chore and they’ll be less likely to have meaningful interactions.

Remind Them That Friendships Are a Two-Way Street

Introverts are content with keeping to themselves, which doesn’t always translate well in friendships. Building a friendship requires talking regularly, reaching out to make plans and, yes—actually following through on those plans. While introverts are actually great friends once you get to know them and develop a foundation, they have a hard time putting in the effort that building a friendship takes. If your child or introverted student expresses concerns about engaging socially with their peers, be sure to remind them that friendships truly are a two-way street and that in order to make those meaningful connections they desire, they’ll have to put some effort in and invest time into getting to know people.

Team Up With Their Teacher

The adult that spends a significant amount of time interacting with your child, aside from you, is their online high school teacher. If you’re having a hard time getting through to your introverted student, or just want some reinforcement, reaching out to your child’s teacher is a great idea. They want to see their students succeed in all aspects of their educational journey—and socialization is a huge component. While you can encourage social interaction outside of the virtual classroom environment, their teacher can encourage social interaction during live class sessions by actively engaging with them and gently pushing them to speak up more. They can even help facilitate group projects and make sure they’re pairing introverts with other students they’ll click with. At ASU Prep Digital, we also pair every student with a Learning Success Coach who is dedicated to helping them with support and goal setting. Including them in the conversation will ensure that your child is given opportunities to socialize from all of the adults in their life whom they interact with and admire.

5 Myths About Socialization While Learning Online

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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.