Each day, we spend hours on our computers and mobile devices, often putting more effort into posting, liking, sharing, e-mailing, tagging, blogging, chatting and texting than we put into our face-to-face interactions. Yet when it comes to online accelerated nursing programs and education via the Internet, many of us still envision a solitary, isolated environment devoid of any personal connection. Fortunately, with today’s online learning platforms, this is almost never the case.
Just because you don’t take courses in a lecture hall full of students doesn’t mean your educational experience has to be lonely—far from it! Check out these five ways to stay connected in the virtual classroom:
1. Make a habit of using discussion boards, chats, forums and other interactive functions offered by your online accelerated nursing program learning platform.
Any good online learning tool will have a variety of options for staying connected with faculty and classmates, and it’s worth using these tools regularly. Faculty who are comfortable with online courses and technology (and very few aren’t these days) typically welcome questions and comments via such tools and are quick to respond. In fact, many students report that they find their faculty more accessible as a result of technology than in the days when in-person appointments during specific office hours were the norm. For instance, if you’ve just finished listening to a lecture at 10 pm, you can post questions or comments and potentially receive a response right away, while the material is still fresh in your mind. Online communication tools also provide a non-threatening way for classmates with different backgrounds or experiences to contribute to the conversation and can prompt engagement from those who might not be inclined to speak up in a classroom full of people.
2. Form virtual communities.
Whether you use the tools provided by your online nursing program platform, mainstream social media networks or some other method, challenge yourself to form or join smaller online nursing communities comprised of fellow students from your accelerated nursing program. Start a Wednesday night study chat for a particularly difficult class. Make a plan with classmates to watch a particular lecture at the same time, then have an online discussion about it. Set up a shared online calendar for your study partners or group project participants. Post interesting events you’d like to attend and encourage others to come with you. Or form online nursing communities that are purposely not related to school, ones that connect you to classmates on the basis of outside interests. You’ll often find that social interactions online lead to friendships offline.
3. Take advantage of interactive online learning modules and activities.
Technology can be a particularly effective tool in health-related education because of its ability to show rather than tell. If there’s a multimedia option for reinforcing a particular concept, use it. Watch the demo video. Do the online simulation. Complete the interactive practice test or game. Not only do these features help keep you engaged and reinforce your understanding of the material, they give you something else to talk about with your classmates and teachers (“Can you believe that video from the OR?”) Even better than doing these exercises alone is watching them with a classmate or a small group and talking (or online chatting) about them afterward.
4. Put yourself out there—your face, that is.
Most online learning platforms have the option to add a photo for use in interactive spaces, and it’s worth it to take a few moments to do so. The more you associate a face with a person’s online contributions, the more comfortable you’ll feel continuing a discussion with that person offline. Even if you don’t see your classmates every day, they’ll start to feel familiar if their faces pop up frequently on your screen! Take it one step further and leverage any video chat capabilities offered by your program or by your own mobile device, whether with classmates or professors. Next time you’re tempted to initiate a discussion by e-mail or text, challenge yourself to try a video chat instead for a more personal feel.
5. There’s an app for that.
Some of the big learning management systems, like Canvas, Blackboard and Moodle, offer free apps for iOS and Android that allow you to access your courses and stay on top of your work. These can be useful not only for helping you organize your time and increase your productivity, but also for giving you another way to interact with classmates. There are also numerous apps on the market that specifically target nursing students with information ranging from disease databases to NCLEX practice quizzes. These can be fun to share with your classmates or professors. No one says your apps have to be school-related, either. . . you and your fellow students can always make time for a few rounds of Words With Friends when you need a break.
A big benefit of online nursing programs, whether you’re in the lab, in the classroom or in the local bagel shop, you can stay as closely or as loosely connected as you choose. As long as you have a computer or mobile device, the social aspect of being an online nursing student is never more than a click away.