educational articles
Educational Articles

10 Ways to Have the College Experience Online

Online Study

More and more people these days are earning their college degree through online study; while the advantages may include lower cost, convenience in scheduling, reduced time obtaining the degree, and the ability to keep your regular job, a major disadvantage is the isolation inherent in sitting behind your computer in your pajamas. The idea sounds inviting at first, but unless you are so busy with family, job, and other extra-curricular activities that you have no interest in anything but completing your courses so you can flash your new diploma at your boss, you will soon become bored with the repetition of study, work, sleep-in whatever order you manage to arrange these activities.

The college experience involves interacting with peers—classmates who have the same goals and interests and who experience the same frustrations with professors who fail to explain concepts adequately or with assignments that made sense at one time, but seem to have changed. You are also likely to become keenly aware of the fact that your family and friends have no interest whatever in reading your essays, commenting on some graphic design project, or commiserating about the overwhelming medical terminology that must be learned by those trying to become a nurse or some other member of the medical field.

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In spite of your apparent isolation, a little creativity can help you enjoy a college experience almost as complete as if you were on campus. The following suggestions are just 10 ways to help you get the most out of your college education from the comfort of your own computer corner. Some are possible ways to enhance your study while others are things you can do just for fun and to get to know your online classmates a little better. Who knows—you might just develop some life-long friendships.

  1. Group Study

    Have a "group" study session. On campus, students get together to study. They bring the drinks, pop some popcorn, and break open the books. Try this variation; making use of technology, set a meeting time to join a chatroom. (You may even find that your college provides password secure chatrooms that only you and your college peers can enter). Set a time for check-ins that will occur periodically over a two or three hour period. Study the agreed upon material. At each check-in time, spend five or ten minutes (set a limit) during which you and your peers will discuss one concept contained in the lesson material. You'll be surprised at how differently people will view the same material, and you will remember it longer for having shared.

  2. Peer Paper Exchange

    Start a peer paper exchange. One of the most effective ways to write good essays is to swap them around among your peers. Use a mail box exchange—you could set up just one email address and each person in the group would send their papers to that address. You could "draw names" and have each paper read by just one other person, or, if the group is small and the essays not too long, each person could read all of the essays in the box. Then give each other helpful comments or ask constructive questions. To do this, the individuals need to agree to accept "criticism" as well as to be considerate in how they give suggestions. For example, instead of telling a person they have written an awful essay, you could ask them what they meant in a paragraph or sentence that seems particularly ambiguous. (To draw names, one person needs to be the host in order to assign a number to each member. Other members would then choose a number via email and would receive communication from the corresponding member.)

  3. Play a game. Many popular games—such as Scrabble, Dungeons & Dragons, Butterfly Escape, and numerous virtual reality games are available in internet versions. With Scrabble, for example, you purchase the CD version. After set up, you can enter the game room and play with anyone who is there, or you can meet people with whom you have made prior arrangements. You can engage in random play or you can have tournaments.

  4. Virtual Race

    Join a virtual race. Sparkpeople.com is an award winning site that you can join for free. The purpose of the site is to inspire people to get into better physical shape, and no one needs that more than someone who doesn't even have to walk across a campus to get to class. Sparkpeople works on an honor system. You choose the races or activities in which you want to participate and report your success. You can start your own group or join one of the groups already established. You earn points and prizes for reaching milestones.

  5. Are you in a graphic or web design program? Practice your skills by starting on online newsletter to be shared with your classmates. Invite others to contribute, and keep it simple—no more than two or three pages per issue.

  6. Course of Study

    You might be surprised to learn how many people in your own state are in the same program. Once or twice during your course of study, make an effort to have a live get-together at a park, beach, or other mutually convenient location. Make it a picnic or pot luck barbecue with each person bringing a dish, and get to know your classmates in person. You will be surprised at how much you have in common.

  7. Get involved in an online student organizations. Many campuses give online students the option of participating with campus activities or of joining online clubs. You may find everything from fashion clubs to book clubs and even parents' clubs. If the club you want isn't already available at your chosen school, ask about starting one.

  8. Join discussion boards and community outreach programs. You might even become a peer tutor for other online students.

  9. Host a virtual shopping spree. Decide on a list of items each member is supposed to "buy" (using virtual money, of course). Have a virtual race to see who can be the first to find all of the items, and at the lowest price. (Hint: Do not use eBay. Set your own rules, but it might be a good idea to say that each item has to be purchased at a different site. The winner must be able to provide a list of all the sites where the items were found.)

  10. Economics/ Business Major

    Are you an economics or business major? Get "together" in teams of three or four members and have a virtual trading competition. Many online brokers offer virtual trading where a person can "practice" trading without putting up any real money. If you want to learn how to work with options, you might try OptionsXpress.com. The winning team would be the one with the most money by the end of a pre-determined time period.

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