Everyone knows about study groups. They exist in high schools, undergraduate colleges and universities, and in professional and graduate schools around the world. In some places, students together with educators create and organize study groups.
Lots of students and former students swear by study groups, crediting them for fueling their academic success. Educators too believe in their value. As the Director of Graduate Studies at a small, private university says, “In addition to helping students understand actual content. A good study group brings them together with supportive peers whose challenges and goals mirror theirs. In some cases, the emotional support is more important to their academic persistence than are the academic advantages of being a part of a study group”.
If that makes sense to you, you already understand the special importance of study groups, which can transition into “success groups” for students enrolled in online degree programs. Online degree seekers can not meet for coffee or a quick dinner before class or an after-class drink. They do not run into each other in the dining hall, the library, or the student center. Such students never see each other walking around campus, and they do not serve together in campus organizations. Sure, students enrolled in online programs have their families, friends, and in some instances, their colleagues at work.
But they can get the help and support of their peer students only in a study group. There is an extremely high correlation between academic persistence and the degree of connection with classmates. thus the potential importance of a study group or success group should not be understated.
That is why many online universities offer a platform which makes it easy for students to reach out to and communicate with their classmates electronically. If you are exploring online colleges, ask the colleges you are considering if they offer such a platform. In the event that you wind up enrolled where no such help is available, ask for it, or request the email addresses of your classmates and ask if they would like to join study group meetings on Zoom, Skype, Teams or a similar application.
With good leadership, as stated previously, a study group can become a more broadly defined “success group”, by choosing to take time for students to ask each other questions, recommend to each other good courses and instructors, help their classmates choose topics for assigned papers, review and critique drafts, and help prepare each other for major exams. When you don’t need a large group, or a large group is not appropriate, you can always break into smaller groups.
If the group chooses, the instructor can be invited to spend an occasional half hour sitting in and answering questions. Not only can the chance to question an instructor be helpful to students, it may save their instructors lots of time by not having to answer the same questions endlessly by email. Not all instructors will think this is a good idea, but if a little more time online can help students succeed and, in the end, save time, it is not far from a no-brainer for many instructors.
Not everybody is comfortable speaking in a group even if that group is online, but another benefit of groups like we are discussing that they may begin giving such students find the confidence to speak.
Students enrolled in educational programs online are usually busy people who sometimes must juggle career and family responsibilities. It may not always be easy for them to set aside time for study group meetings. But not doing so, especially during their first or second semester in a program, could be a big mistake. Time invested in a study group or success group is nearly always time well invested.