Match.com recently released a series of commercials marketing their newly established local events for singles. The theory is that is singles get together offline they will have the opportunity to get to know one another in a casual environment with pre-determined activities. With this in mind, should schools offering distance education programs establish similar opportunities to their students? Would the ability to interact with fellow peers in a neutral environment help students feel connected to their school? Would local social and educational events ultimately result in a higher graduation rate within distance education programs?
A Neutral Environment
If students do not know one another, and only have online classes in common, they would probably be weary of inviting each other over to their homes to study. Because of safety and security concerns, among other things, if schools established regular education events for students to attend they could support one another through real-time interactions. For example, if every Wednesday in Conference Room one at the local library, students from ABC College met to discuss current events, current classes, or whatever they wanted, these students could possibly form bonds to last them through school and post-graduation. By interacting with peers everyone would have the opportunity to feel as though they are a part of something larger than themselves.
A Sense of Belonging
When people meet others with similar interests a feeling of acceptance and understanding could develop. Online students sometimes feel ignored and/or isolated in the online environment due to the lack of peer interactions. By having a greater connection to the university, through social or educational events, students may feel a stronger commitment to their learning and success. “The ways in which we engage socially seem to constantly move in new directions, with new technologies and social media emerging at exponential frequency. At networking events, the topic tends to initiate a flurry of personal reflections or commentaries on the state of human communication in our now-mediated world and how “students these days” are less able to interact effectively in face-to-face social encounters. It is evident in both our personal and professional lives that social ties are increasingly formed and maintained by means other than face-to-face communication” (Henry, 2012).
Face-to-Face Study Groups
Are you struggling in Trigonometry? Or is your British Literature class overpowering your entire weekend every month? Perhaps a study group would help you to understand the “ins and outs” of Chemistry? If local events were regularly held, study groups could be formed amongst participating students. For those who may learn best (in general or when struggling with material) in a situation where distance is not a factor, a school-sponsored study group could work in their favor.
School representatives would be a key factor in the local events held by the university. School representatives, like match.com personnel, would help locate a facility, contact local students to market the event, and ultimately coordinate the event once it started. By having a local representative for students to connect with and communicate with, the possibility for volunteer opportunities and internships could come into play. Representatives would not need to hold any credentials, unless the school desired them to, as they would only be required to communicate, organize, and support the events and its attendees.
Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions? Feel free to throw in your two cents!