online learning alumni

Online learning grads can become your most active alumni –here’s why

One of the greatest misconceptions regarding online learning is the idea that those who choose this option are not interested in community.

Holding a graduation event exclusively for online students sounds unusual, perhaps even a contradiction. But over the years at InterActive we’ve become accustomed to looking at some at the most diffused misconceptions about online learning as a challenge–quality of the teaching, support for students, participation—and defying them with what we do.

From July 13th to 15th July, we hosted our third annual Graduation & Networking event, welcoming more than 105 students to Prague. Over these three days graduates, students, and tutors got together to celebrate the successful completion of studies that have been carried on from every corner of the world.

Before this event, tutors had never met the learners in person, and students had not once shared the same physical space of a traditional classroom. What we have seen and experienced, this year and the ones before, is that this makes little to no difference for our students and staff.

The Greatest Misconception

One of the greatest misconceptions regarding  online learning is the idea that those who choose this option are after a certificate or qualification, looking for an easier and cheaper way to seize it. Our conviction, further reinforced by increasing participation in the ceremony, is that if that’s the case graduates wouldn’t be travelling from as far as Qatar, Mexico, and The Philippines–some with their families–just to be there. They wouldn’t commit to the time and cost of long trips, not after having studied for years from the comfort of their own house, if they didn’t feel they belong to something that truly matters to them.

E-learning didn’t take a good learning experience from them, but instead changed their perception of furthering their studies in a different way. Distance learners are not second-rate students, and where online learning appears to create a distance between them and the provider, it actually offers a wide range of solutions to make sure they always feel close to the institution.

Much like traditional providers and universities, online learning provides support and engagement, creating a sense of community that erases distances and physical boundaries while enhancing the study experience.

(Next page: Engaging Online Learning Alumni with Success)

Creating Traditions for Online Students

Education is an experience that is not just about learning, but also about belonging. Our students looked forward to taking part in the graduation ceremony as much as we wanted them there, sealing a relationship that we aim to carry on in the future.

It’s not just about a certificate for them, and they’re not simply a closed file for us. We spend years proving to students that being at an online institution won’t diminish their learning experience or the final outcome, and we don’t underestimate the impact that an alumni network can have on past, current and future students.

We advocate that the online learning experience should not be a half-hearted emulation of the classroom experience, but that doesn’t mean that we have to compromise on the feeling of belonging that only a lifelong relationship with a community of like-minded people can give.

Active Alumni in the E-Learning Sector

As vice-chancellors know very well, alumni networks have a great relevance for all education institutions, as they are a solid base to build reputation and support the future in many ways, including financially.

We, in the e-learning sector, don’t underestimate the importance that universities place on alumni–both in financial and reputational terms. The fact that graduates studied online should not be a barrier for them to have a lifelong relationship with the institution; in fact, those graduates are probably highly inclined to join alumni associations to compensate for the fact that they didn’t actually attend a campus-based course.

Universities thinking about adding online programs to their portfolio shouldn’t fear a setback in alumni donations should they decide to go down this path. Yes, going online will probably mean a different approach to alumni relations, but it shouldn’t be an obstacle.

By sharing an online community with tutors and staff, these learners have already showed their disposition to participate in something different, and they are likely to be more inclined to join an alumni association. And, it’s worth highlighting, those students are already used to a distance relationship with their institutions.

The launch of our alumni network InterActive International Alumni Association, which happened during the graduation, evidences that.

What online learning has to do in order to showcase its strengths is to dare, and present itself as more than a vague simulation of the campus-based experience. It isn’t about reassuring students and academic partners with something familiar, but to prove that another way to inclusive education is possible, while disproving prejudices and taking down barriers.

It’s time for this sector and those involved to get over the dated idea that online learning is a mere alternative to traditional education or, even worse, a less dignified option. With new and more inclusive technologies launched and developed every day, e-learning has all it needs to effectively complement traditional education.

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

eSchool Media Contributors

Oops! We could not locate your form.