There’s no debating the fact that online education is different from the traditional college experience. The online experience will never be able to match the personal interaction and development that is such a big part of campus life.
“It’s true that online learners will not have the same types of interaction as their on-campus peers,” Eric Stoller wrote in a post for Inside Higher Education. “However, we need to stop thinking about what’s ‘missing’ or ‘lacking’ and focus on what we can do to increase connection and build community via digital channels.”
For Stoller, the solution to better student engagement may be social media. Social sites are already being utilized to connect students and expand learner networks, but institutions should be working on programs that use the functionality of social media while the class is in session and as a tool students can rely on for further professional development.
“While online learners might not necessarily be able to meet up at the campus coffee shop with their friends, they can meet up with their peers via WhatsApp groups, Google Hangouts, Twitter hashtag conversations, Periscope live-streams, and LinkedIn group discussion,” Stoller wrote.