Be Seen Beyond the Screen: Networking in Online Learning Spaces

June 25, 2024

Michelle Maixner


Going back to school can be about more than just getting more education. It’s an opportunity to grow your network of like-minded professionals. Networks are a powerful resource to leverage when it comes to career growth. In fact, Harvard Business found that network connections were responsible for 75% of jobs in 2021.

When you first start a program, it’s easy to get lost in coursework. Before you know it, you’ve completed two classes and haven’t made any connections. Online degree programs are like most things in life – you get out of it what you put into it and virtual networking takes intentionality. So, what does this look like in practice?

Participate in activities beyond class requirements.

Engage in activities and conversations. There are plenty of ways to connect if you start with saying yes. Participate in discussion boards, attend webinars, take part in group feeds and accept GroupMe requests. These places are beaming with professionals like you who are looking to connect. Don’t just troll the comments for valuable information – be an active part of discussions. If putting yourself out there is difficult, keep a few conversation-starter questions in your back pocket to use when you’re new to a group. Those that answer the call to conversation will be the people you want to connect with.

Network with your professors.

Professors are not only a wealth of knowledge but offer a valuable relationship to foster. Don’t let yourself be just another submission to grade. Take a lesson from kindergarten and “meet the teacher.” Take advantage of their office hours and have some face-to-face interaction. When you have virtual class meetings, engage with both the professor and other students who are brave enough to share their screen. Take them up on their offer to answer questions and provide clarification on assignments. This shows you are committed to doing good work and creates connections that would have otherwise been lost if you tried to figure it out on your own. Let your professor get to know you.

Take advantage of professional social media platforms.

Beef up your social media presence. Treat your professional social network platforms like a resume. Keep them updated and display your best self. If you are new to platforms like LinkedIn, start by connecting with friends and coworkers. Post your recent accomplishments, successes from your workplace or valuable information about your profession. It won’t be long before people start reaching out to you for connections.

As you build your network and classmate relationships, take time to get to know people. The goal is to create meaningful, life-long connections that benefit the growth of both parties. You may not have the same things to offer, but each of you brings something valuable to the table. Initiate conversations that offer an opportunity to connect and give others a glimpse of what you have to offer as well.

Don’t graduate with only a degree. Graduate with a network that expands across the nation!

Start your fully online program at American College of Education.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Michelle Maixner
Michelle Maixner, RN to MSN

Michelle Maixner is currently pursuing her Master of Science in Nursing at American College of Education. As a nurse of 22 years, she has spent 19 years at the Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. Maixner recognized her love for teaching after working in the NICU as a new nurse who taught families the intricate care that neonatal infants need. She has worked as a nurse educator for the past 13 years, and shortly after starting at ACE, she was promoted to Clinical Manager of Children’s Education. Maixner also works as a Home Health Field Nurse in the Houston and surrounding areas where she finds fulfillment in providing personalized and compassionate care to patients in their homes. She is a Texas native who grew up along the Gulf Coast. Maixner loves to travel, has two dogs, one fluffy rabbit and a daughter who is spreading her wings in college.

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