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Staying connected while apart

One can’t replace in-person interaction and learning, but that doesn’t mean one has to feel isolated while studying online

KARUNN KANDOI | NEW DELHI |

One of the cornerstones of effective learning is building lasting relationships. Connections fostered between students, professors and mentors during studies help integration into the wider school community. It is true for students, no matter if they are in their hometown or studying abroad.
With most studying online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s quite normal to struggle with maintaining connections. The good news is that there’s a host of ways to feel more entrenched in the school community — both inside and outside the virtual classroom.
The virtual format of post-secondary education has several ways for students to stay engaged and feel connected even when physically apart. Here are some great tips to get immersed into a school’s virtual community while waiting for a return to on-campus activities.

Virtual workouts
When in doubt, move your body. Without the opportunity to walk to and from campus, students could participate in group exercise classes or even go to the gym, as making time for physical activity has never been so important. Beyond the physical and mental health benefits of raising the heart rate, exercise also builds and strengthens relationships.
That doesn’t have to stop because of being stuck at home. Several schools are offering a range of online classes which students can attend virtually. Institutions are hosting everything from yoga to Pilates, aerobic workouts, meditation sessions and much more. Feeling good, making connections and elevating one’s mood — virtual workout classes are an excellent way to get involved with peers outside the classroom.

Online discussion boards
Discussion boards are a key feature of several online courses, and sometimes one’s final grade can also mandate participation in them. Participating in such discussions is an exceptional way to remain connected with classmates and instructors, while improving retention of what one is learning. But it is necessary to remember that simply going through the motions isn’t enough.
Researchers have found that students are productive and content in their coursework when they cultivate success, curiosity and strong relationships in the classroom. One needs to prepare for attaining success by participating in online class discussions and asking questions. It is important to not only share one’s own ideas but also interact with the comments and questions from peers and professors.

Virtual games & movie nights
Relationships that are born in classrooms are often solidified during personal time. It’s important to make time outside the academic schedule to bond with peers that one has connected with in class.
Game and movie nights are a great place to start. Even though one can’t congregate on the same couch or around a coffee table, virtual games and movie nights can still be a lot of fun and open the door to real friendship. If kicking back one’s feet and watching a romantic comedy is one’s thing, there are apps like ***Teleparty*** to make that television or movie-watching party happen, virtually. It is necessary to make time to strengthen relationships outside the classroom.

Student clubs and organisations
Traditionally, student-run clubs and organisations always offered a chance to disconnect from studies and meet like-minded individuals who share common interests.
While the pandemic curtailed in-person meet-ups, extracurricular activities in several universities are still going strong online, with virtual recruitment of new members. One can research into the kinds of clubs their school offers and find out how to participate in them. Learning new things and meeting good people are part of the university experience.
Higher learning was never intended to be consumed entirely from the confines of home. The lessons learnt and relationships built at school have largely been a product of the dynamic and unique experience of being on campus. Removing that in-person element from the equation has been a radical adjustment for almost everyone involved.
One can’t replace in-person interaction and learning, but that doesn’t mean one has to feel isolated while studying online.