Online courses are a wonderful option for many reasons, but they can sometimes feel impersonal and disconnected. While it may be harder to interact with classmates and faculty in an online degree program, it’s not impossible. The extra effort required to connect with your professors and stay aware of administrative events will pay off when you complete your degree program with solid professional relationships and opportunities.
Your degree program will last a couple of years, but your new career will last a lifetime! Set the groundwork now for your future career by reaching out to faculty and administrators – these four steps will help you get the most out of your virtual professional relationships!
Attend Virtual Office Hours
The best way to get face (or screen) time with your professor is to attend virtual office hours. Most professors will designate 1-3 hours per week when they’re available to answer questions and discuss course content; if you don’t see office hours mentioned in the syllabus, ask! Even if you don’t have a particular question every week, make it a habit to attend office hours – that will make it easier to ask in the future when you do need help. Some topics for those early meetings? Ask about your professor’s research interests, ask for any advice in your field, and start making a list of potential employers in the community that your professor can recommend.
Complete All Assignments (Even Optional Ones)
If you’re taking courses online, chances are you have a pretty full schedule. But skipping the optional course assignments isn’t the best way to manage your time; by passing over opportunities to work with other students and your professor, you’ll likely miss some important course content. If your university uses a specific online platform, make sure you watch the tutorials to take advantage of all the features. Many platforms have discussion boards and general chat areas to talk about course content, and professors will often assign “optional” topics for these posts. While you could skip these discussions, participating in a collaborative setting throughout the course will give you many more chances to talk with your professor.
Check Your School Email
If you’re juggling school, work, and a family, your inbox probably has a thousand unread messages. While this might not cause trouble elsewhere, avoiding your school email will leave you disconnected from important administrative and course updates. Most faculty will communicate exclusively through email, so it’s vital that you set up your school account with priority focus; one option is to add your school email to your phone’s email app so that new messages will always pop up. Another option is to set up email forwarding so that any school messages will land in your preferred inbox instead. Either way, staying up-to-date on school emails will keep you in the loop for important deadlines, scholarship opportunities, extra credit assignments, and more.
Look for Events Beyond the Classroom
By branching out and attending events beyond the classroom, you get a chance to learn from professors in a whole new way and build a collegiate relationship that can last after your course is complete. Often schools will have faculty webpages, where students and the public can learn about faculty’s current research, any seminars or events they’re hosting, and what other projects they’re currently working on. If your university doesn’t have faculty webpages, look for department event calendars to get started.
Even though you’re completing coursework online, you don’t have to forego the other opportunities that traditional programs offer. Take the time to create connections with your professors today!