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Online Degree Tips: How to Fill the Classroom Void

By Meg G.
Financial Analyst and Graduate Student

Online students lack a certain interaction with their professors and fellow classmates. Whether you realize it or not, interaction plays a key role in the learning process. Even though there are unique obstacles, it is still possible to interact with your professors and fellow classmates in an online classroom.

Here are five tips to help you increase your interaction.

Use Message Boards

Most online courses have message boards—use them. Ignoring the message board is like skipping class. Many students ask questions that are answered by the professor. In addition, students can bounce ideas off each other and help each other complete assignments. The message boards play a key role in the online learning process and ignoring them is ignoring a very valuable tool.

Use Instant Messaging

Get the instant messaging names of several of your classmates. Unlike message boards, you know when your classmates are online. Use instant messaging, Web cam conferencing and voice chat to discuss your assignments and work on group projects. This is the next best thing to meeting up with your classmates in the flesh.

Find Out Where Classmates Live

Chances are that if you live in a big area, there are a couple of people in your class or online degree program who live in your vicinity. Find out who they are and meet up at a local library for a study session. Sometimes meeting up with classmates in person helps you understand concepts that are hard to grasp on your own.

Call Your Professor

Your online class professor has probably given you a phone number where he or she can be reached. Call the professor early in the semester to introduce yourself and get an idea of how the professor plans the class to go. This will show the professor that you go the extra mile and are proactive. Call your professor whenever you have a problem. Sometimes a phone call is much more productive than e-mail.

Return E-mails

We are all overloaded with excess e-mails. However, no matter how insignificant an e-mail seems, always answer it. Ignoring an e-mail from an online classmate or professor is like slamming a door in their faces. If you don't know the answer to a question posed, simply reply, "I don't know. I am looking in to it." If you don't have time to answer an inquiry, write back and let your classmate know when you will be able to address the issues. This will show that you are responsive and is proper online classroom etiquette.

Learning online poses unique challenges. Using technology, you can overcome some of these challenges and stay in touch with your classroom. While you may not have the day-to-day personal interaction, a lot of times chat, e-mail, and voice chats are the next best thing. Just remember to be courteous, respectful and helpful and you will learn more than you could ever imagine online.

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