A potential student can ask themselves many questions when choosing a distance course. Two very important are:
1) Will the interaction between students be very different from on-campus training?
2) How reliable are the tutors/teachers to help the pupils if (almost) communication is only possible by e-mail?
Learn online, but not in isolation
Well, the answers to the two questions are actually related. Online communication tools help students stay “on track” and there is really nothing to worry about! There are many ways to communicate with other students and participate in discussions, change your mind, or find out what’s new. The interaction between the students is very lively throughout the academic year and it is up to you to know to what extent you can use the different communication methods.
Expect online and personal interaction
Some of the correspondence courses include one or two (or more), internal classes, during the academic year. This is called blended learning. For example, some courses require students to be present at the institution twice a year. After having introduced themselves officially during the course, students often participate in informal discussions between breaks, and soon new friendships and a sense of belonging to a different group of students developed. Too much for direct personal communication and interaction. Everything else is a matter of the virtual world.
How do you interact with your colleagues?
One of the main features of the online study is that future study partners mainly interact with various online tools. In fact, these tools become the most important. Students often use email – it’s a very effective form of communication because almost everyone nowadays has smart technologies (tablets, smartphones) with which we can read and respond to emails immediately. Another source of widely used tools is Skype.
Skype group chats have become the focus of student interaction. It is not uncommon for someone in the group to participate in the discussion at night (but also during working hours) about certain problems that may arise when dealing with certain subjects.
Online chats offer several advantages.
In this way, students can be constantly updated. If you’re having trouble (we all do it sometimes, right?), Skype group chats (or individual chats) offer lots of support and advice. I would like to point out that Skype is probably the most widespread and preferred online tool in Europe (many students across Europe mentioned Skype as a form of communication almost immediately after the first meeting), while in the United States (in my group, there are two American students, other tools could be the choice of preference.
When mentioning Skype, don’t forget to mention that tutors are also very interested in communicating via Skype. The downside, however, is the limited availability: students usually have a few hours a week to speak on Skype. This brings me back to email communication and highlights its importance, at least in terms of the interaction between students and tutors. And here we come to another point: the orientation of tutors.
Get instructions from tutors
Since online studies are based on the use of different online tools, it makes sense that the type of communication between students and teachers is to use the exact tools mentioned above. But this is only the technical side of the coin. The most important thing and in our interest is whether the tutors can really give us, the students, all the support/advice/guidance we need to successfully solve any problems we may have.