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The Online College Student Vs. Extracurricular

Most online students live a life of both convenience and a time constraint.  Whatever the reasons a student opts for an online campus rather than the traditional campus varies considerably.  But what about further involvement in student activities?  What does an online university have to offer in addition to the forum posts and copious amounts of reading and studying?  College in of itself is a necessary requirement to attain a job in specific fields of study, but the extracurricular activities are enriching and also assist in further learning and experience.  How does an online student then become more involved with academics through outside activities?

First and foremost depending upon a student’s particular situation depends upon the types of activities a student can do.  For instance, in my own personal situation I attend online classes simply out of convenience and to-believe it or not-save money.  I live in probably about one hundred miles past the middle of nowhere and with the expense in gas prices as well as the wear and tear on my vehicle to make the commute, the horrible Upper Peninsula Michigan weather during the winter months, it’s in my best interest to simply stay home and study over the Internet.  I’m also a single mother of two children.  Taking classes in the traditional classroom would also take me away from my children.  So how then, besides Facebooking, can I become more actively involved?

The University of Phoenix offers a number of groups and forums where students can interact and get to know each other.  There are specific groups, such as those formed for Military and Significant Others for students who are going to school while their husbands/wives/boyfriends/girlfriends are deployed.  It acts like a support group of sorts and assists those who are new to the Army lifestyle in the transitions between when they are home and when they are deployed.  There are other forums for various other topics and groups, Parents, Teachers, Parents with Children with Special Needs, English Majors, Technology Majors, Geeks…if you can think of it-there’s probably a forum to go along with it.  In the off chance that there isn’t a forum that exists for the topic you’d like to discuss, the viable option is to create one.

As for other extracurricular activities that one may want to look into are community events or enrichment classes in the community.  Many high schools offer classes both during the school year and during the summer as well for individuals who want to tap into their creativity, learn a new skill, or perhaps get out and meet new interesting people.  These classes are usually held within the high school or specified areas.  Some include Tai Chi, Karate, Beadwork, foreign language, as well as information regarding pool hours.  Depending on who is available to teach these classes and how many people sign up for them determines the availability of the class.  Most classes have a nominal fee for supplies as well as to pay the teacher but in other instances it’s simply the supplies and a volunteer. 

Other resources to find extracurricular activities are the local library.  There is usually a bulletin board of some sort where groups post certain community events.  Perhaps joining a band, attending workshops through the local library, or even volunteer work can help not only reinforce the idea that the university is the only place where a student can find activities between classes, but also enables the student to become more involved within the community.  Working as a team, getting to know neighbors is an excellent way to connect and network.  The more individuals you get to know, the more resources a student has access to. 

Say for instance you enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons.  You move to a new state for work, but you continue on with your classes online.  Besides your job, what else do you have at this point?  Why not go down to the local library or even look at your work place bulletin board and see if you can connect with anything on any sort of level.  Perhaps you see a class available that interests you.  You've always wanted to learn Japanese so you decide to go to this enrichment class after work.  Say you meet a few people there who not only enjoy anime, but they enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons as well and they then invite you over to game with them sometime. 

Each decision you make in life tends to have at least some sort of snowball effect.  Whether it’s to become a recluse during your studies, hide within your home and concentrate on your degree program via computer while the rest of the world moves past you in the interim.  Or you can reach out with both hands and take what this life has to offer, a plethora of opportunities and ways to network your way through not only the community, but through college.  It makes you a stronger person, braver even stepping out into new territory and meeting new people.  But whether you are in college, or even at a physical brick and mortar campus, do not let opportunities slide by out of fear.  Be strong and conquer that fear for in the end you may end up meeting friends who will remain with you for the years to come.  At the very least you will take with you what you have learned in these experiences, searching for that perfect extracurricular activity. 


rachelsholiday's picture

Great article!

What a great article!  I’m a hybrid student, taking classes on campus & online.  I’m lucky to live in Minnesota where the public schools have had a huge push to increase their online curriculum.

However, my experience is very similar to yours.  I go to a non-traditional university where most of the students work full time during the day and take classes in the evening or online.  There’s not a huge amount of time to be involved on campus.

That said, I almost think it’s more important to be involved in the community where you live, rather than being involved in your campus community;  especially if you’re going to be living in that community for a long time.  My husband grew up here and I have a feeling that we’re going to be here for a long time.  That makes me want to invest in my immediate surroundings, rather than invest in a campus life when I’m going to be graduation soon (woo!)

As spring approaches a great way to get involved in your community (and save money too) may be to get involved in a community garden.  You save money because you’re growing some of your own food.  You get involved in the community because you get to know your neighbors and learn what’s going on around you.

Mercer Smith's picture

I really liked all of the

I really liked all of the extracurriculars I did and, especially in a large school, there are so many different things to choose from. I found myself bouncing around between a number of different activities until I finally decided on the few that fit my personality and me perfectly. That's something I will say: because there are so many different options and there are always a bunch of people trying to influence your decisions it can be very difficult when trying to figure out which classes and activities you are going to participate in. Some people even over burden themselves with so many different activities that they have trouble having a social life outside of them, or even completing homework.

Although extracurriculars can serve as a jumping off point and a way to be more social they can potentially cause more problems than they solve. I had friends that literally ended up having to drop out of school because they got so stressed out by all of the stuff on their plate. Naturally, this is not how it goes for most, I just feel that I should serve to provide a warning for people who might be reading this blog. For me, one or two worked just fine, but for some people even that is too much.