Yes, You Can Network in an Online Course!
Seven Networking Tips for online learners, from MIT and beyond -
For working professionals and job hunters, building a professional networking has historically been a key selling point for investment in traditional in-person continuing education or workforce training. This focus on networking is not surprising, considering that 80% of jobs are filled through personal and professional connections.
But as online learning becomes more prevalent, professionals trying to connect with like-minded peers may wonder how to build community in an online setting. Here are 7 tips from MIT and beyond, about how to network in your next online course:
- Take advantage of forums – start by introducing yourself, and stay engaged by commenting on other learners’ posts, answering questions, and participating in course discussions. Dr. Aditi Joshi, Production Lead and Course Moderator for the MITx MicroMasters® Program in Principles of Manufacturing (PoM) is a big believer in the power of forums.
“Course forums are a great place to start for online networking," says Joshi. "PoM program learners use it to interact with each other, or find peers who live nearby to organize meet ups. The forum also represents a great opportunity for learners to interact with and have their questions answered by the MicroMasters course team.”
- Leverage other technology– some learners start their own LinkedIn, Facebook, WeChat, Whatsapp, or Clubhouse groups. Join them if they’re available or start your own based on shared interests, industries, or location.
- Create a study group – whatever channels you use, checking in once or twice a week with a small group of peers can help you stay on track and form stronger bonds. Creating community in this way is one of the four practices that helped Abigael Bamgboye complete 800+ hours of remote learning!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – Harvard researchers have actually found that asking for advice cam make you look smarter. Even if you don’t have a study group, you can gather a variety of insights and start fruitful conversations by posting your questions in a forum or during virtual office hours.
- Provide value to your network – make sure that you’re not only asking, but also answering questions when you can. The best way to foster fruitful online relationships is to make them mutually beneficial by offering advice, sharing relevant resources, and producing high quality work in group projects. Creating value in this way will make you a go-to resource, even after the course is through.
- Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date – and make sure you share your profile and connect with your peers. It’s a great way to share your expertise at a glance, while staying connected after the course is through.
- Take time to re-connect after the course is done – check in every few months with the connections you’ve made in your online course. Whether you’re congratulating someone on a promotion or sharing an article that you think they’d enjoy, checking in with your former classmates will help sustain long-term relationships that can help you grow.
As COVID-19 restrictions start to decrease in some regions and higher education institutions begin to ease back into in-person classroom models, busy professionals may continue to pursue online coursework in order to skill up on their own time. If online learning is indeed here to stay, learners looking to get the most out of their online courses should prioritize creating community and building quality connections with their classmates.
“Building a professional network has been a hallmark of higher education for decades," says Dr. Egor Matveyev, Executive Director of the MITx MicroMasters Program in Finance, "but it isn’t always considered a natural part of the online learning process. The COVID-19 crisis was a significant positive shock to the acceptance of online education as a viable substitute for in-residence programs, and I expect that networking will continue to become an integral part of the online learning experience.”