Using Social Networking to Stay in Touch With Online Classmates
One of the drawbacks people often list with online education is that it doesn’t get you the networking benefits that you get with a traditional college. You don’t meet classmates face to face, get to know them in person, or develop relationships that could lead to job opportunities down the road.
This may have been true in the past—but with so many options in social networking these days, you can get a lot of the networking benefits of a traditional school. Here are a few ways you can use social networking to make friends, connect on a professional level, keep in touch, and build a community with your online classmates. You can even use social networking sites to coordinate in-person meetings—so you can take communication with your classmates offline.
Connect on Facebook
One great thing about Facebook is most people are on it—so chances are you should be able to find most of your classmates here already. Connecting with other students on Facebook is a great way to get to know each other as more than a few lines of text in the student forums. Facebook lets you see pictures, interests, and other details of students’ personal lives—in the right environment, it can be a good thing to connect with your classmates this way. There are a variety of ways you can use Facebook to get more out of your classmate relationships using it.
For instance, you could start an Events page inviting classmates in your area out for drinks or coffee, to lectures or to an in-person study session. Facebook also lets you start a fan page for a common interest, such as a school, class, favorite professor, or online education in general. It’s one way to make connections with classmates outside of the online classroom environment—and get to see who they are as people.
Follow your classmates on Twitter
Twitter’s benefit is up-to-the-minute notifications. While Facebook also has a status notification system, Facebook etiquette generally says it’s not cool to update constantly. There are no such limits to it on Twitter.
The benefit of keeping in touch with classmates and professors on Twitter is that you stay in front of them—even after you graduate. You can announce when you’re looking for a job—someone from your classes might have a lead. On Twitter, you can engage other posters in conversations through your posts and keep in touch with classmates and teachers who might be able to help you with your career.
Connect with professors and classmates on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is more professionally-oriented than Twitter and Facebook. One of its useful features is the ability to leave recommendations for others. Do a good deed for a professor or classmate by recommending them on LinkedIn, and they will be more likely to do the same for you. This can help you generate a strong record of recommendations that potential employers can see—even before you’ve landed your first job after you graduate.
Start a MeetUp group
MeetUp is a site that allows people to form groups based around a common interest—anything from in-line skating to Belgian beer. You can start a MeetUp for students in your area who attend your online school, who are studying the same degree program you’re in, or who are in an online college—you can cast your net as wide as you want. This will let you make connections with your classmates and with people in similar situations to yours—connections you may never have tried to make before, because you would have felt you didn’t need to as a traditional student.
Traditional schools aren’t the only option when it comes to getting an education that helps you develop relationships with your classmates. If you put some effort into it, social networking sites can help you get to know your classmates outside of the online classroom environment—and even meet up in person.
Use social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others, and you should be able to keep in touch with classmates and professors easily—which could help you find a job down the road. It can also help you meet your classmates in person, and form memorable relationships and lifelong friendships. The process for developing relationships with classmates might be different than with a traditional school—but it’s just as useful.
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