Log in and link up with your peers for an enhanced learning experience.

Man on computerYou’ve heard the expression: Two heads are better than one. Well, put just a few more heads together and you’ve got a study group, which can be a powerful tool in your online education.

The flexible and convenient learning platforms of accredited online colleges and universities offer innovative options for collaborating with classmates—one on one, or working together in a study group. There is no stress about picking a meeting place, and no fear of getting stuck in traffic on your way there. Just grab a cup of coffee at your kitchen table and log in to your laptop for a relaxed session of knowledge-sharing with your peers.

Online universities offer their own mix of digital tools, platforms, and social networking channels, allowing students to interact with others enrolled in the same bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree programs as they are. To start a conversation about forming a study group, connect with students in your individual online courses via social media, discussion boards, or e-mail. If you’re taking the lead for the first time, here are some questions to consider:

How big should the group be?

A mix of three to five students is usually about right, to make sure everyone has a chance to participate. And it’s also easier for students to connect with each other in a small group setting. That bond can allow for more open conversation.

How often should we meet?

Weekly is the interval most sustainable over time. As an adult learner pursuing your goal of a postsecondary education, you know how busy your weeks are. So, think slow and steady, and lifelong learning. Determine the number of sessions at the start. Working with your classmates in a virtual setting can add great value, and it’s a benefit you can enjoy throughout your college education.

How long should our sessions last?

No longer than an hour. Using 60 minutes as the upper range, find the smallest measure of time that will work for your group and the material you’ll be covering. Always err on the side of a shorter, more tightly paced meeting for sustained focus.

When should we meet?

Scheduling can be the trickiest part. Use Doodle or another digital tool to identify the best day and time for you and your classmates. Once you’ve established that, stick to it. Participation is likely to dwindle if meeting days and times shift. And give a thought to time zones. Online schools offer the rare opportunity to attend class with students from around the world. When meeting online in real time, you may find it simpler to organize students within your own time zone. But that’s the beauty of earning a degree online. The choice and flexibility are all yours.

Where should we meet?

Your accredited online university or college may already have a platform where you can virtually congregate, and that’s a great place to start. But other options abound. Many groups use Google’s bundle of products which includes Hangouts, a popular choice for video chats. Whatever you choose, make sure the technological learning curve is as minimal as possible.

Who should lead our meetings?

As the organizer, you should take the helm to moderate the first session. But then let the responsibility shift from week to week so that everyone has a chance to lead. This will come more naturally to some, and an occasional classmate may opt out. Go with the flow but try to keep the process as democratic as possible. It will make for a more collegial vibe.

Once you’ve built the framework for your virtual meetup, these quick tips can help optimize your experience:

  • Have a study guide, outline, or agenda for each session. Each moderator can take responsibility for his or her week, asking members to add suggested items to a shareable document. Make sure the agenda is ready at least two days in advance so everyone has a chance to prepare.
  • Limit distractions. Be sure carve out the quiet time and space you need to be fully present for your study group. It’s a gift to them and to yourself. Enjoy getting to know your classmates. They may become study partners throughout all your years of higher education—and lifelong friends.
  • Have fun! Spend the last 5 minutes of each session getting to know each other better. Introduce a pet, show a family photo, share a quirky fact about where you live. Some groups hold virtual holiday parties and even happy hours, where the “happy” can be iced tea or a craft beer. How about celebrating the end of your project, or final exams, with a virtual karaoke party? Too much? Find the fun that works for you!

Earning a degree at an online university can link you with like-minded students who are also seeking a degree, such as a Master of Social Work (MSW) or a BS in Elementary Education. Get connected using the technology and tools of online learning. Post a question on a discussion board. Answer a question. Join a Facebook group. Come together with others in your online degree program to form a study group. A network of collaborative learning is at your fingertips.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs along with a variety of graduate certificates. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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