How not to feel alone in an OLC environment

There is a new trend in education developing around the world, Online Learning. Maybe you have heard of this before or maybe you have already enrolled for a online course. Maybe you have tried Distance Learning but you feel all alone within your fort of textbooks. So how does OLC differ from distance? How can you get that classroom experience within an OLC as opposed to studying alone through distance?

The main thing to remember about Online Learning is that you are not alone. No matter which institution you go through remember there are other people just like you going through the same thing. The growth in the number of students enrolling for online courses has dramatically increased globally over the last few years according to a study conducted in Turkey and the US. (Link)

Why is this so? There are several advantages to enrolling in an online course, these advantages are convenience, flexibility and accessibility. You can access your course work as well as your lecture without even leaving the comfort of your living room, or maybe even your bed. This, however, comes at a price due to not having that personal face to face interaction between yourself and your lecturer and your fellow students. According to the study above they believe that this feeling of isolation and disconnectedness in the online environment are the two main contributors to the high dropout rate within online courses. This is said to be true mainly in regards to MOOC’s which are open, normally free, online courses that students can enroll for. MOOC’s are non-qualification based and are used to gain knowledge in a certain area or topic.

So how do you overcome this feeling of isolation? How can you connect with your fellow students? Why should you connect with your fellow students?

Student interaction and connection is import to avoid those feelings of loneliness that is felt when studying on your own. If you feel that you are part of something then you are more likely to take a keen interest in it. As mentioned in the above study the feeling of being alone and disconnected are the two main factors that result in the high dropout rate.

Majority of Learner Management Systems (LMS’s) which are used to host OLC’s have many different channels in which you can use to communicate. There are course forums, live chats, and private messaging to name a few. So why do students still feel this isolation?

In my personal experience it’s that feeling of embarrassment that holds students back from using the more public channels of communication. What if my post is wrong? What if its a silly question? What if a fellow student mocks me? This is when I can only urge students who are doing an OLC to take that step and ask your questions. There is no such thing as a silly question and most of the time one of your fellow students has the very same question on the tip of their tongue. As with anything it takes that first step, that one person, to lead the way and make it ok.

These channels of communication are mainly there for course content only but they do provide a means to connect with fellow students. This may lead to connecting socially which can be true of any face to face classroom environment. Due to providing you with this connection you could even connect with students who live in your area and form a study group where you work through the OLC together. Whether this is working on your assignments together, forming study groups for exam preparation or just general course discussion.

Quick tips:

  • Remember that you are not alone and your classmates are in the same situation.
  • Find a buddy, find someone doing your course and reach out to them.
  • Keep active in your course, visit your course often and use the forums.
  • Chat to others about your course.
  • Use the private messaging options to connect to your lecture or classmates or use the instant messaging service.
  • Make opportunities to meet up with your fellow students to form study groups.
  • And finally have fun, this way of studying is new and exciting to take pride in being part of it.

The Learner Management systems (LMS’s), is the middle man connecting you to your fellow students and your lecture but if you do not take the steps to contact your fellow students or chat in the forum then you might as well be hidden away in your fort of books. As with anything its what YOU make of it.


Written By

Justine Van Gysen


The views expressed in the blog post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the South African College of Business.