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The value of connecting with your online classmates

Online students find that collaboration and learning from peers is not lost in the virtual environment.

3 min read


The value of connecting with your online classmates

Jeff Day (Photo courtesy of Michigan State University)

Industry and peer knowledge, professional relationships among the benefits of collaborating with classmates online.

Learning about leadership from the perspective of a military servicemember or an entrepreneur from a different industry was a valuable aspect of Jeff Day’s online graduate program.

“I’ve gained even more appreciation for the insight and thoughts of my peers [in the program]. Reading and interacting with the perspectives of others has given me insight that I did not already have,” said Day, who earned an MS in Management, Strategy and Leadership online at Michigan State University.

Gaining diverse perspectives from classmates is not lost by connecting online instead of in person. Students in a 2012 study in the Journal of Information Technology Education noted a number of advantages about virtual collaboration as part of an online education program, such as the opportunity to share knowledge, appreciate diverse viewpoints and to help peers.

Carlos Jimenez, who earned a Management Certificate in the Business of Hospitality from MSU, gained a better understanding of the intricacies of hospitality management by interacting with his peers.

“I gained a lot of knowledge and feedback from talking to professionals in the industry who shared their experiences during group discussions, which definitely helped me understand a lot of what’s happening today in the industry where I work,” Jimenez said.

One significant advantage noted in the Journal of Information Technology Education study was the ability of students to network online, something usually associated with social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. In fact, the study mentioned that online group work posed an opportunity for students who otherwise wouldn’t have met to develop professional relationships.

Day said he appreciated the bonds he developed from working with students in his master’s program.

“It will get you exposed to other people that are in a similar position to you. It will also give you connections that you can use outside in the professional world,” he said. “I think that’s really important for professionals to consider what their networks of people look like beyond their existing careers.”

As part of a cohort, fellow MSU graduate Heather Serrano quickly felt like she was part of a community, even though she lives in California. When one participant faced the prospect of looking for a new job, everybody else rallied around to encourage him.

That cohort still stays in touch through a private email group. “Even months later somebody will send a message: ‘Hey, how is everybody doing?'” Serrano said.

This post is sponsored by Michigan State University, Eli Broad College of Business