Staying Connected as an Online Learner

Posted on June 12 2020

Student on a video call with a classmate.

Online learning is often considered to be good for people who aren’t very social. That’s not true. Not at all. Some of the best online learners, in fact, are extroverts who enjoy being around other people very much.

But even if you’re an absolute introvert, the quality of your learning is contingent upon the quality of the connections you build and keep with teachers and other learners online. How do you stay connected at a distance? Here are a few tips: 

“Bug” your teachers

It’s possible to learn things without ever communicating with a teacher. But we’ve worked with tens of thousands of students across the globe, and we can tell you without a doubt that it is almost impossible to build deep and meaningful connections to ideas if you’re not connected to people who are experts in that subject. Your teachers want to hear from you. You are not a bother to them. Use the resources you are given to connect online. You’ll be amazed by what you get in return. 

Connect with a community of online learners

One of the reasons that traditional classrooms have been used as “model” learning environments for so long is because these spaces create lots of opportunities for students to interact with one another. So, for instance, if one student has a question, but is struggling to ask it for whatever reason, there’s a good chance that another student will ask that question and get an answer that benefits the entire class. Online learning doesn’t always work this way. Sometimes, there are opportunities for interacting with other students, but sometimes there isn’t. So what should you do? Find communities of learners and experts. Twitter is an especially good platform for this. Millions of teachers and learners are on this platform every day, and reaching out to ask them a question about their area of expertise (or developing expertise) is easy. You might not always get an answer right away, but if you @ five university professors who teach American history with a question about, say, the Civil War, you’re virtually guaranteed to get at least one response. It’s amazing what people are willing to answer or discuss if you’re just brave enough to reach out. 

Talk about what you are learning

Chances are that you have someone in your life who regularly asks you a question like “how’s school going?” And chances are that you usually answer them by saying, “it’s fine.” STOP THAT! To build the sorts of connections that make knowledge valuable, you absolutely have to talk to people about that knowledge. So the next time someone asks you how school’s going, tell them something you’ve learned. It can be anything at all. And if you don’t happen to have someone in your life like this yet, find someone who will be receptive to listening to what you’ve been up to. Our students have had great success with librarians, coaches, local business leaders, grandparents and “adopted grandparents,” and even friends their own age. Give it a try!