…by Stephen / from the USA / studying Philosophy, Science and Religion / 2nd Year (Online PG)
Online education affords students important advantages, such as not having to attend classes at a set time, allowing students to fit their studies around their work and family commitments, and meeting interesting colleagues from around the globe. Nonetheless, distance from the university and absorption in daily life can sometimes make an online student feel disconnected from the wider academic community. Here are two strategies I found that help me feel meaningfully part of the academic world.
“I think it’s important to carve out time in which you shed your normal roles, perhaps as a spouse, parent, or employee, and think of yourself solely as a student”
An easy way to taste a bit of the student life as an online learner is to use your University of Edinburgh ID card. Many institutions around the world offer student discounts, saving you money on museum admissions, concerts, and other attractions. More importantly, using the card makes you feel like a student, even if, like me, you’re past the age of a typical student. I think it’s important to carve out time in which you shed your normal roles, perhaps as a spouse, parent, or employee, and think of yourself solely as a student. Using your Edinburgh ID card to visit an art museum for a few hours, for example, is a great way to do this. It gives you a break from your normal life and, I find, fosters the creative thinking so helpful for scholarship.
“I am a scholar-in-training working within a wider community of experts”
Joining an academic professional organization will also help you feel connected to the academic community. As a postgraduate student in philosophy at Edinburgh, I was able to join the American Philosophical Association at a low price. I receive their journals, newsletter, and announcements, keeping me updated on conferences, opportunities to submit papers, and developments in the discipline. Beyond conveying useful information, these communications serve as frequent reminders that I am a scholar-in-training working within a wider community of experts. Sometimes a reminder like this can inspire you to focus on your studies when your other responsibilities start to crowd out your academic pursuits.
Completing a postgraduate degree is a big commitment for anyone, but it poses unique challenges for distance students. Using simple strategies like these can help you feel more connected to your university and the academic world.