Earning a college degree online does not mean that you have to give up the benefits of a traditional student experience. All the resources available with an on-campus setting can be converted to the online experience, such as a virtual or online study group. It may take a little initiative on your part to make it possible.
You might think of study groups as in-person meetings at the library, burning the midnight oil as you pore over notes with your peers and many cups of coffee. According to a study from The Heritage Foundation, online students learn just as well as students in the classroom and can replicate on-campus experiences such as study groups so that they are equally effective when it comes time to take a test.
The study looked at an online science class, comparing the performance of its students to their on-campus counterparts. Students in the online setting “had a greater proportion of high level interactions. They unexpectedly formed online study groups and organized their own review sessions without the instructor’s intervention”; results showed online students actually performed better on tests.
Advantages of an Online Study Group
Study groups are a valuable asset because they provide a support system and allow students to share skill sets, thus improving their note-taking abilities while making it easier to cover more material and make learning more fun.
By capitalizing on the skills of your peers, you will learn new ways to approach the subject matter and hold members accountable to the group. Just like a traditional study group, members of an online study group should set goals, decide how to work together and define roles for group members.
Creating an Effective Study Group
A good study group is defined by its structure. Aside from identifying what the group wants to achieve, you’ll need to set ground rules that establish expectations, limit off-topic posts or chats and determine how study time is managed.
For online study groups you will also need to decide what platform you will use to meet, how often and at what time. Membership should be kept to students within the same course, or at the very least, the same program. Also, groups need to determine at what point they become too big. A good number of people for a typical study group is generally six to eight.
Online study groups will want to employ some basic strategies to remain organized and get the most out of their online study sessions. Here are some ideas that can help a study group thrive:
- Identify a moderator – It’s best to have one person lead the group’s online discussions, organize materials and help everyone maintain their focus on the group goal. This role can be rotated so that it is shared over the course of a semester.
- Develop an agenda – It’s good to have at least one regularly scheduled activity to get all participants on the same page. Include a wrap up of the session and an introduction of things to come.
- Assess member strengths – There are myriad skills (note taking, time management, summarization, organization) each member of a group can offer. By doing so, you will allow each member to maximize their own ability to contribute and see areas where they can benefit from help.
- Stay positive – Some sessions will be extremely helpful, while others may frustrate the group. It’s important to maintain a good attitude, stay focused on the group’s goal and press forward.
Online Study Tools
The platform you select for your online study group can greatly contribute to its success. There are a number of useful tools to host your group; finding the right one may just be a matter of conferring with interested group members and selecting the solution that best works for the largest number of people.
Some options include ThinkBinder, a collaboration app that allows students to share videos, pictures and links while communicating through both text and video chat. There is even a whiteboard feature to work on problems or brainstorm ideas, an effective tool for group projects.
Google has a number of tools to help users do just about anything. Students can share screens, video conference, incorporate Google docs, collaborate on a virtual whiteboard, and record your sessions and stream them onto YouTube on the Google Hangouts platform.
If you’re looking for something a bit more exclusive, Rcampus is a good tool. Members can create an unlimited number of study groups for free and each study group includes a home page and message center. The creator of the group (the moderator) controls the home page and is the only person who can invite others to join by sharing the group ID and an access code.