University is not just a place for the serious study of chosen subject matter. It is a place to engage with fellow students, to meet people from different cultures and backgrounds, for young and old to come together in a petri dish of learning and personal growth. There are endless opportunities to socialise, study in groups and join organisations or teams that are in areas of interest. These ‘outside of class’ activities are arguably the best part of undertaking a university education and being a part of the university experience. However, life happens, not everyone can make it to a class environment, there could be a global pandemic, and no one is on campus. Alternatively, you could be like me, in the mature-aged student category, coming back to study 13 years after finishing High School, and on the other side of the world.
Whatever situation you find yourself in, the flexibility afforded to students or potential students by online learning is incredibly attractive. It is a way to have a second chance at a career you always wanted, a way to get a promotion, to learn something new, an opportunity to ‘flip your game’. All the while you can keep your day job, travel, look after your children, keep up with any-and-all commitments that are currently on the table. The positives are undeniable yet, do you actually feel like you’re a student? Do you feel a part of the team?
If you are reading this as an online/distance student or contemplating becoming one, and this is how you feel or is a concern you have- I have great news; You most certainly can be a part of the team, and you can gain that student vibe all the ‘on campus’ kids are living.
Griffith has some excellent ways to get involved, the only catch is, you have to do something about it. Like your studies, success or failure in this area is completely up to you. So, allow me to give you my hot tips on how to get the most out of your student experience as an online/distance learner.
Do the online Orientation and Library Orientation
Nothing is going to get your head in the game like orientation. This is the place for all the little tips and tricks that you don’t want to be searching for in week 6 when you have two assessments due.
The library orientation, I cannot recommend highly enough. The library is an incredible resource, well beyond the scope of purely finding an electronic version of your textbooks. This workshop will jumpstart your ability to research, so you can crack on finding resources as soon as required.
Use the Discussion Boards!
This is HUGE! Now not every subject is going to mandate that you partake in the discussion boards. However, I strongly encourage you to do it anyway. You don’t have hallways, or the outside of lecture theatres, or cafeterias to engage with your fellow students. Nowhere to ask questions on the way to and from class or bounce ideas off each other in the libraries study rooms. What you do have is the Discussion Boards. Here is your chance to form relationships with your fellow classmates. To meet new people and help each other out. The social aspect of University is one of its greatest strengths. Don’t miss out on this great part of student life, because you don’t ‘need’ to use the discussion boards.
Jump on any webinars and zoom conferences that are available
University clubs, organisations and staff will occasionally arrange presentations from subject matter experts. Often these will be live-streamed. So, if you can’t make it to the theatre in the flesh that doesn’t mean you have to miss the wealth of knowledge you can gain from these events. Many of these live-stream sessions allow for Q and A and you can often write in online any questions you may have.
Social media engagement
A fantastic part of Griffith University is how engaging their social media presence is. Let’s face it, we are all online, and we all have one form of social media or another. Use it to engage with your university instead of just liking pictures of cats, there is always time for that anyways.
Volunteer with online organisations
In my opinion the best link on Learning@Griffith, is the ‘Enrich Your Studies’ link. This is where you can really stretch yourself and give back, whilst getting something at the same time. Here you will find many organisations looking for volunteers in a variety of capacities to help with certain projects and tasks. Not only is this building your skills, it is also increasing your employability as these organisations can go on to be references for you at the completion of the tasks. This is such a great way to get that little bit extra out of the student experience all from the freedom of whatever Wi-Fi connection you can find.
The online experience can be challenging and at times disengaging. To combat that Griffith have gone a long way to increase your engagement as a student. Check out what is available, implement some of this list into your student life, and your online student experience will feel a lot more like an engaging, active learning community, and less like that thing you do when you get home from work of an evening.