After realizing I was going back to school to earn my communication masters degree, I questioned how would I make connections with my classmates. I was just ready to continue my education when I applied and I didn’t think about the socialization part of school. During undergrad, the communication department at Mississippi State was fairly small. We all eventually met each other. Before my online classes began, I compared my experience of undergraduate to the possible classroom situation at Purdue. However, I didn’t need to worry because you will interact with your classmates.
How will I be introduced to my classmates?
The first interaction you will have with your classmates is the new student orientation course. You will provide a brief description of yourself as well as how to learn more about the learning management system, Engage. In the orientation course, I met Stephanie Smith. I got excited because we both loved Parks and Recreation, and trust me I’m obsessed with that show. However, don’t get too excited because you might not have class with the people you talk to in orientation until later. Later I got to work with her on a group assignment for my Communication Research Methods course.
How will I get to know my classmates?
Once you earn access to your Engage account, you will create a profile to help people recognize you and learn more about you. Be specific so people can really get to know you and you can find common interests with your peers. Mention your favorite band or what organizations you are currently involved in. You can also try to connect with your classmates on other social media outlets. However, I’d advise you connect with your classmates on LinkedIn first.
How will I interact in a discussion forum?
The next way you will interact is in the discussion forum. Each week, you will create a written submission based upon the questions posted that week in the learning management system. Through the discussion board you will not online learn about the industry through their discussion posts but you will also learn more about your classmates personal experiences. A lot of people will give good ideas that you can apply to both your coursework or to your career.
How will I interact in my group projects?
So far, I have only had 2 classes, where we had a group assignment. My reaction was probably similar to yours when you heard the scary term “group assignment.” That should not let anyone fear the program. In each group, I have worked with a brilliant team of individuals who provided unique viewpoints. Even though we received A’s on the papers, you have to communicate on your own terms.
For group assignments, I would recommend you communicate at least once a week with your group to make sure all things are getting done. Delegate tasks along the way so you are not working at the last minute. In the past, my groups have communicated over Skype’s group conference and a group member’s conference call account. Meg Fingert introduced my group to Basecamp and it is pretty much the child of Google Drive and GroupMe.
Do not be nervous about earning your degree online. Trust me you will meet wonderful connections.
Learn More About Classroom Communication in an Online Program
Emma Hawes is a student in Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.
*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.