Don't Be Afraid to Connect With Online Classmates

With time and effort, you can create relationships with online classmates.

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To connect with students, I became an active presence on discussion boards – the online version of the student who can’t help but raise her hand.

It took an urgent email from my instructor earlier this week to make me realize that my online personal finance class was quickly coming to a close.

Our final project was due in two weeks, she wrote. We should all be in high gear, well on our way to finishing.

Not only was I not in high gear, I hadn't even revved up my engine. I still had plenty of work to do before I even started the final project.

Spurred to action, I visited our class discussion boards and started asking questions that I'd been putting off for days.

In our discussion board for general questions, I asked about a confusing mortgage rate formula tied to our second case study, which was due in days. In our "syllabus" discussion board, I asked if it was possible to get extra credit, which would have helped me make up some lost points from a missed assignment.

I even went to the "student lounge" discussion board and asked for advice on what to do with $5,000 I wanted to invest. I was hoping to use this class to get advice on the issue, but felt like I was running out of time.

[Learn whether online education is right for you.]

Weeks ago I was penalized for being disobediently mum on our graded discussion board. Now I was the online version of that annoying student in class who raises her hand after every question.

I expected some of my classmates to roll their eyes at my activity – I've certainly been there. To my surprise, though, a handful of my fellow students jumped at the chance to interact.

The day after I posted my question about what to do with $5,000, three of my classmates responded with suggestions. Then my professor weighed in, posting links to two articles with helpful advice for what to do with the money: pay off debt first, then turn to mutual funds.

[Make the best impression possible in an online course.]

In a discussion board post, my professor said she struggled with how to address the extra credit issue. While she didn't have anything against extra credit, she said the students who ask for the option tend to be particularly behind and need to focus on their regular work.

Touche.

She asked my peers to weigh in, but they upheld her verdict: Apparently the highest grade I'll be able to get is a B-plus.

Still, I was so impressed by the thoughtful responses from my classmates that I sent a few of them emails thanking them for their help. Some even wrote me back, and I was happy to learn through our virtual chitchat that I was not the only one behind in class.

I was a long way from forming the kinds of Internet friendships I'd imagined at the start of the semester. But with online learning, I'm learning that you get what you give.

Trying to fund your online education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for Online Education center.