Building a Sense of Community for Online Learners

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One of the most attractive aspects of online education is the fact that it brings the classroom directly to the laptops, tablets, and smartphones of students all over the world. Higher education has become more accessible, allowing students to study from the comfort of their own living rooms. While most students love the convenience of online education, there is a sense of isolation that can sometimes accompany it. How can online students overcome feelings of loneliness?

At Ashford University, the solution has been an effort to create a sense of community online. Classes feature online discussions where students are required to share their thoughts on topics pulled from the curriculum. Students are also encouraged to respond to their classmates’ posts and build a dialogue, simulating the experience of a classroom conversation.

Sometimes, the dialogue will continue outside of the online classroom. It’s not unusual for students to form lasting friendships with classmates. The Ashford online classroom has even sparked at least one relationship that turned into a marriage. Check out the remarkable story of Jeremy and Linda Phillips, classmates who met in an online Comparative Religions course at Ashford.

Another useful tool for building the online community is the Ashford Café. Accessible from the online classroom, the Ashford Café offers an outlet for networking with Ashford’s pool of students and alumni. It connects students to all of Ashford’s social media channels. More than 160,000 people have liked the Ashford Facebook page. Plus, Ashford has many followers on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. That’s a huge number of potential contacts, most of whom are current or former Ashford students. They know how it feels to be sitting in front of a computer late at night desperately trying to finish an assignment while a deadline looms. Turn to them when you need some peer advice or a cheerleader to get you through a rough patch or even a receptive audience to brag about a big accomplishment.

Of course, not every online student requires the same level of interaction with classmates. Even if you are one of those students who prefers to fly solo, the Ashford Café is a worthwhile resource. The Café includes a feed from the Ashford Facebook page, providing a quick update on major happenings from the larger Ashford community. You’ll find information about upcoming events, networking opportunities, career tips, doses of inspiration, and more.

The point of the Ashford Café is to help students see a bigger picture. They are part of an expansive community – even if they don’t always see the other members of that community – they can tap into whenever they want. With so many fellow students and alumni by your side, there’s no need to feel alone in your educational journey.

Written by Erik Siwak, Communications Manager for Bridgepoint Education

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