Connections that Count

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The current availability of online classes has changed the face of higher education and the rewards and benefits are multifold, and it has never been easier or more convenient to attend graduate school. However, for those considering it, some may fear that ‘connecting’ with their peers in this scenario could be a struggle.  

This does not have to be the case; the availability of connections is there for all to utilize. Those connections can be valuable resources, either academically, professionally, socially, for moral support, or simply to vent when it is not a good day. 

As you consider graduate school, keep in mind all the opportunities that are now available to make connections that otherwise would not be accessible. 

One connection that will be available to all graduate students: the professor teaching the course. Professors are such a simple and easy connection to take advantage of. Professors and instructors are there to help, and they will if asked. They were all once graduate students themselves, so they have been in your shoes. They will answer emails, and some will even give out their cell phone numbers so students can connect with them and ask questions.

Alexis MacAllister, who is obtaining her Master of Professional Studies in project management at Tennessee Tech University, found that reaching out to her professors was easy. She credits them with playing a significant role in her educational journey. 

“I am very satisfied with my experience in the master’s program and would not change anything about it. The professors were excellent and understanding of the fact that many of us have busy lives, and they always encouraged us to ask questions when we needed clarification,” MacAllister said. “I appreciated their support and guidance throughout the program, and I feel that their efforts contributed greatly to my success in the program.”

MacAllister also credits her co-workers as being part of her success. She credited Sydney Beaver, Amanda Powell and the iCube office at Tech with supporting her through this process, encouraging her to not give up, and “being proud of her accomplishments.”

A professor may also assign group work, which can be a great opportunity to connect. Group work allows students to work on a team and can showcase strengths and minimize weaknesses. It can also become a support group, as everyone gets to know each other better through a shared goal. 

Emily Kuper, who is obtaining her Master of Accountancy degree at Tech, realized this, to her surprise. 

“I think my best experience in the graduate program has been, shockingly enough, group work. The MAcc splits you up into little mini-cohorts, and we stay in contact even when we don’t have an assignment actively due,” Kuper said “They have been a lifeline when working through a mostly online program.”

Many online classes require students to share an introduction post, another opportunity to make lots of connections in one place.  Reading those posts has lots of benefits, one being an automatic feeling of connection to someone as you read about them. Classmates are no longer strangers.

Through these posts you will find things that you have in common, be it career, the stage in your educational journey (i.e., what semester someone is in, or when they plan to graduate), background, children, hobbies, or pets.

Everyone should have access to the names and emails of their classmates when in graduate school through their online learning environment, or iLearn. Those can also be used as a resource! Students can email classmates with questions about assignments, suggestions, or just to ‘touch base.” If one person has a question about an assignment, the odds are that others do also.

The connections are there, one only needs to take advantage of them. One important thing to remember when thinking about obtaining a graduate degree, with many or most classes being online, is that you will not be alone. Other people will be navigating the same path, with the same questions, insecurities, and struggles. Reaching out and making use of connections that are available and can help ease the journey.    

What connections do you think would be invaluable when obtaining a graduate degree?

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