Before I started taking online classes, I was on campus taking classes within my program of communications arts. Now, some of you may think that this would be a golden opportunity to make new friends - having lots in common with other artists - and while it had started out that way, as time went on each student started to get more and more competitive. Soon, friendships were ended – being torn apart by the competitive nature of the program. I made the decision to seek out other opportunities and found a mentoring program geared toward helping new college students succeed - helping the students find help where they needed it.
It was a great idea, but it had many flaws. Students were not matched up in a way that would allow them to work with each other (such as both being in the same program). There were often schedule conflicts preventing face-to-face meetings to happen – leaving most communications to email. Other issues were the lack of trust – it was a new place for those being mentored, yet they were expected to meet a someone that they hadn’t ever meet before on their own without a school official present. Needless to say, face-to-face meetings rarely ever happened. Email was also a problem – most of the new students didn’t know how the email system worked or did not check their accounts regularly.
To combat these flaws in the system, I would try to email my mentee and have them meet me in person at our monthly mentor meetings. Time and time again, I would go to these meetings in hopes that my mentee would be there, yet they never came. I found out that many of the other mentors shared the same problems as I did. I had made many recommendations as to how we could improve the program, but none were implemented. I continued trying my best to change this program and make it succeed, being that I believed that it was a great idea and stood behind the purpose of the project. Unfortunately, my days at the college ended with the remainder of my classes being fully online through another campus.
I personally live off campus and have enjoyed the ability of being able to take classes online versus having to uproot the whole family just so I could finish up my college degree at another college two hours away. With the big push nowadays to have more classes online (of which I’ve now have had several semesters of, being that all of my classes are online now), there gets to be a point where the lack of human interaction becomes depriving. Aside from class discussions, there is no interaction with others aside from the occasional email from classmates which are far and few between. Even when assigned team projects within a class, each person’s class schedule differs so much that it’s becoming impossible to get together outside of class for meetings (using Skype, phone, or even planning face-to-face interactions), let alone meet up to socialize.
Being a shy person as I am, I was really hoping that my college experience would help me break out of my shell - allowing me to meet others who share the same interest as myself, creating some lasting friends, and connecting with people that network with for future employment. I had always perceived college to be like that in the movies - the best years of your life creating lasting memories and friendship. Yet that doesn’t happen for students that live off campus.
Sadly, it feels like there is a type of bias that comes along with students who are off campus. We pay the same as online campus students do, if not more. This is because of the added expense that comes with course that is taught online. We even pay for every student event that happen on campus because it is automatically charged to every student - regardless if they are an online or on campus student. Online students are members too and as such, they too can enjoy any of these events as long as they are willing to drive the distance (2 hours as in my case) to come down and attend them. Unfortunately, unlike in-class students, we online students are never informed about these events - we must look them up and find out about them ourselves.
Upset over all of this, I decided that some changes needed to be made. No longer did I want my college experience to be viewed so negatively. I decided then to take action, to start a mentors group of my own - a group where other online college students could come and get inside information to courses (how different teachers taught), what a hybrid class was and how they worked (and, more importantly, which classes were offered as hybrid – since occasionally registration did not list the courses as such), and to get assistance with assignments by creating study groups. Students would also get an opportunity to save money on books by selling their books to other students or creating a “book share” opportunity to members. It was my hopes to make this group a place to not only get help, but to meet other students outside the computer world – to make those connections and lasting friendships that are so important to college life.
I had told my adviser about this idea and she said it was a great idea. I then asked if my adviser would be able to assist me in getting the word out to others about the group – to email those students that were online like myself and within the same geographic area (using my two-year college that I attended as a point of reference). Sadly, she declined me. So I then asked the college if I could have permission to use their logo to make fliers, explaining the purpose as to how I’d be using them - they agreed and with that the fliers were created and posted everywhere. All the detailed information about what the group would entail, dates and times were picked, and contact information was included. Unfortunately, the dates for each of the meetings came and went - no one came, not even with cookies being offered! It was then that I realized that my mentorship idea was to be short lived - it was time to give up the idea and move on.
The lesson learned: sometimes even when you have a really great idea, if the customers are not buying, just move on to the next idea – just make sure next time there is a market for the product or service your trying to get out there!