How To Connect With Classmates In An Online Learning Environment

If you go online for your online learning program, you should also reconnect with your friends/professors in the real world.

My first online course was at UCLA, when I was a sophomore. The course was “Conjunctive Theory and Psychological Science.” My professor was Leonard Golub. After the course, I contacted Professor Golub. I went out to lunch with him. I spent countless hours sitting next to Professor Golub. We talked for hours, at times in emails. I did my entire Ph.D. in under-termacency, while passing classes, meetings, writing papers, and delivering papers to Professor Golub, and I came out of that online course with incredible esteem and admiration for Professor Golub. I never received a Master’s in Philosophical Relativity, by the way.

Prof. Golub taught me a very important lesson: Don’t expect to make any connection in a purely online format. I had looked for online connections. I was looking for any communication medium other than email. For me, the online environment ofcourse introduced me to the private lives of many other people. My online course taught me two lessons that are still instrumental to my life’s work.

First, try to establish a very strong sense of self-awareness on a first-name basis in a learning environment. Don’t be scared to walk into someone’s class, as long as it’s not an introductory psychology course, and say, “Hello, my name is Will. I’m a budding public speaker. My personal blog, It Takes Courage to Speak publicly About Science…is here. I’d like to start off by performing the Magic Formula for Investors as quickly as possible.” Or, if you can swing it, “Thank you, class, for that question. I’m a lifelong investor. My whole focus is to give investors the knowledge they need to be savvy with their money.”

In my student’s opinion, the anonymity of these exchanges helped to break the ice with classmates and allay their fear of committing any frivolous acts of cyberbullying, like, “You should reorder your steps at the gym because your core/ass area area is sitting there completely wasted and all he wants to do is watch while I pass it to someone else.” Instead, I went into the exchanges with the goal of actually speaking to the people in the class.

Second, make your own connections. One of the most useful tools for connecting with other people in an online setting is recognizing someone’s interests when entering a conversation.

For instance, it can be a laugh-out-loud experience when you come across someone’s headline and start talking about the embarrassing headline they have one week later in real life. If someone invites you to a roundtable, and you hear about the conversation someone just had with Lisa Page, some angry email I sent, or whatever other absurd internet gossip item, the excitement will probably be high. So, the real test will be to make sure you ask a question or two about the conversation and the topic on the roundtable.

If you want someone to know that you are listening to their article or other conversation, it is good to say, “Thank you, class. I wish I could be there to ask you a question. My personal blog, Op-Ed Voice of Happiness is here. I’d like to start off by performing the Magic Formula for Investors. There’s a link to it in my head. I’ll share it with you when I can. Thank you.”

One of the best ways to identify interest is to make sure you are listening. You may ask a question that is well-answered, or you may find a little gem of an idea, which you might as well take the time to ponder. These two conversations alone will often lead to some of the most fruitful connections you have ever had.

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