Online students also want to feel part of the main campus
Before all education went in person to online, an online community of students at the University of Arizona existed before the pandemic. Students who attended classes in person but were moved online are not classified as online students. This confusion has led the online community to feel detached from the school, with many opportunities to connect feeling out of reach.
Director of Online Student Success Carmin Chan said she knows it is important for online students to have their own identity outside of on-campus students learning online.
“The lines have gotten more and more blurry and there are many variations of e-learning on campus right now,” Chan said. “Students who are part of the Arizona Online Campus are fully online students, which means their entire degree can be completed in a full online modality. It’s different from some of the other flavors of learning happening for students on the main campus. ”
RELATED: Stories of Resource Insecurity: How Dillon Hlohinec Reconciles His Past By Helping Others Plan For Their Future
Chan also acknowledged that she and the online counselors understand that students feel left out and don’t feel like they belong in the Arizona Wildcat community.
“A student’s sense of inclusion or their sense of being connected to their broader university community is really integral to the likelihood that a student will persist and end up graduating from an institution,” Chan said. “It’s a priority for my team and counselors… to help give an online student the opportunity to feel connected. “
Chan and his team have been working on ways to connect online students with each other.
“We started a Facebook page about three years ago following a response from our student body saying they wanted more opportunities for a peer connection,” Chan said. “We chose Facebook based on feedback from our students on the social media platforms they used… so that our staff could focus our energy on the platform they were most engaged on. We have almost 800 students in this group. “
Some students have also taken responsibility for reaching out to their peers online to encourage them to stay active. Rachael Martinez, a nutrition major, was an intern for Arizona Online and said she wanted to create an environment where students can feel free to express themselves.
“In this camp, there is always something in the works,” said Martinez. “We have many short-term projects that relate specifically to student involvement. We are going to do a spirit week and try to rally the students to show their spirit. ”
Other students, like Communication major Stacey Stringfellow, were fighting for online students to have the same opportunities as students on campus. During his internship for the Student Success Office, Stringfellow discovered some of the inequalities the online community faced, especially in honor societies, and realized that something had to be done.
“As for some of the academic honor societies, such as the Communication Honor Society, I didn’t know it existed,” Stringfellow said. “I had a GPA 4.0, and you mean I don’t know there is an honorary communications company. No one thinks of me… and that’s a problem.
Stringfellow said she hoped the work she and the rest of Arizona did online would reveal that there wasn’t much academic difference between students on campus and students online.
“We just want fairness at all levels. I take the same classes as [on-campus students] take, ”Stringfellow said. “I get the same marks, if not better, so why am I excluded from activities that you can participate in?” “
RELATED: AU Nursing Student Reaches 1 Million TikTok Subscribers With ‘OnlyPans’ Her Funny Cooking Videos
It may not be long before students on campus log off and return to class in person. However, when these changes arrive, Martinez said she hopes her work and that of her colleagues will not go unnoticed.
“We’re trying to keep that momentum going,” Martinez said. “We are trying to make more voices heard online so that once the pandemic is over and normal operations resume, the online community is not forgotten.”
Follow Sean Fagan on Twitter