When it comes to socializing students, online learning tends to get a bad rap. Many people wrongly assume that students are doomed to miss out on social opportunities if they want to experience the benefits of online learning.
These assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth.
We’re here to put this rumor to rest and show you how to create an online learning environment that stimulates social learning. Read on to learn exactly how to socialize students in an online learning environment.
Why Are Parents Concerned About Socialization in Online Learning?
If you want to attract more learners to your online school, socialization will be an important learning outcome to emphasize. As more and more online learning opportunities pop up, parents are on the alert for programs that proactively work to improve students’ social skills.
Here are some reasons socialization is becoming a growing concern for parents who are considering online learning for their students.
Social Skills Are Crucial to Success
Parents don’t just want their children to excel in the classroom. They’re concerned about their children’s ability to succeed long after graduation. Because social skills can drastically impact a student’s life as an adult, parents are on the lookout for programs that help children develop advanced social abilities alongside academic coursework.
Grades K-12 Are Critical for Social Development
Child development experts agree that grades K-12 are critical years for learners to develop socially. That means educators need to deliver social skills within this crucial developmental window if they want lessons to fuel positive lifelong outcomes.
Social Skills Are Increasingly Important
When it comes to preparing for a career, social skills are more in demand than ever. In fact, studies suggest that social skills are increasingly important for employers. By instilling critical social skills in learners early on, educators can prepare students to land jobs and thrive as professionals.
Even though parents have good reason to be concerned about social development, it is unfair to assume online classrooms aren’t equipped to promote social learning. That is, as long as it takes place in the right online learning environment.
How Online Learning Is Supporting Social Growth in Class
Make no mistake, not all online learning programs support the type of social growth students need. However, there are programs that have built-in features to tackle social learning head-on. Here are some lesser-known ways advanced online learning programs are propelling social growth in the classroom.
Dedicated Socialization Programs
Some online platforms will include socially focused learning programs, such as learning tiles. These lessons are one-hour periods that are dedicated to socialization and academics. They let students pick an extracurricular interest and dive deeper into related activities through an interactive classroom. Some examples of learning tiles that online schools currently use include movie making and student leadership brainstorming sessions.
In advanced online learning programs, interaction will be seamless and frequent. Students can access message boards, dashboards, and video conferences to connect with instructors or other students. Plus, because students can log on 24/7, connections can carry on long after the final bell in a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom has rung.
It’s natural for a newcomer to online learning to be afraid that they’ll find themselves isolated in a digital world with no help in sight. However, the right online learning platforms will give students the support they need to thrive. With designated support features, such as chat, students can quickly get the assistance they need.
More Time for Social Advancement
Because advanced online programs guide students through self-pacing, personalized coursework, students can learn at their own speed. That means learners can advance at their own pace, build their own schedules, and carve out more time for social activities outside class.
Common Misunderstandings About Online Socialization
Even with so many opportunities out there for online students to pick up advanced social skills, there are still several common misunderstandings hovering around online learning. Here are some popular myths about online learning and socialization.
Extracurriculars Are Stifled
Contrary to popular belief, online environments can actually make it easier to pursue extracurricular activities. For instance, they allow student athletes and artists to learn when they’re on the road for events. Online learning programs also make it easier for students to chisel out time to pursue those extracurricular opportunities they’re passionate about.
In-Person Opportunities Are Nonexistent
Many people assume that online learning is impersonal or robotic. That assumption is miles from the truth. Quality online programs will include a range of socialization opportunities, such as field trips, in-person meetups, and activity-based lessons.
Clubs Don’t Exist Online
Many falsely think that clubs simply don’t enter into student life in an online learning environment. However, online learning can provide an interactive setting where students can gain in-depth knowledge on a topic, connect with others who share their passion, and arrange in-person discussions.
One popular example of a successful online club is Method Schools’ mountain biking team. The club lets students learn skills online and meet up with classmates to ride bikes.
Social Interactions Are Unmonitored
When you hear about online interactions, you might think students are roaming the web on their own and connecting with others in secret. In truth, online learning platforms make it easy to build a safe online environment for social interactions. For instance, some platforms are built to include safety features, such as bullying reports, to provide social learning in a secure setting.
All Online Socialization Is the Same
As schools rush online, it’s easy to assume every online school will offer equivalent social and extracurricular opportunities. Sadly, this isn’t always the case—especially if a school has moved online in a hurry.
Experienced online schools have spent years developing meaningful socialization programs. For new or temporary online schools, social development isn’t always a top priority. That’s why, if a program is new to online education, it’s worth double-checking to make sure it’s prepared to meet your child’s social needs.
How Online Learning Helps Leaders Promote Better Social Outcomes
The right online learning platform doesn’t just spoon-feed social opportunities to students. It also empowers leaders with the tools they need to inspire social learning. Here are some ways SmartFox K12 Online Learning promotes stronger leadership.
Advantages for Administrators
- Easy reporting: Because administrators can easily run safety reports, they can provide social learning opportunities while keeping students safe and the school compliant.
- Simplified management: With analytics and tools like Zoom built into the learning management system (LMS), administrators can give teachers the resources to promote fluent communication and identify academic barriers. More intuitive tools make it easier for teachers and students to connect on a deeper level.
- More measurable outcomes: Need to see if your school’s programs are driving better learning outcomes? SmartFox’s platform makes it easy to identify and report on the performance of students and teachers.
Advantages for Counselors
- More insight on-hand: Counselors can see what academic barriers are holding students back in the classroom. That means it’s easier to lead students past classroom hold-ups and encourage broader social development.
- More freedom: With online learning, counselors aren’t confined to set hours and a stuffy office. That means counselors have more opportunities to coach students through challenges, regardless of their physical location.
- Clearer paths to growth: Because they have advanced graduation planners and easy access to student information, counselors can direct students to coursework that supports their needs and encourages personal growth.
Learn More About SmartFox’s Online Learning
If you want your school to encourage positive socialization through online learning, it all starts with the platform powering your institution. SmartFox is designed with both students and educational leaders in mind.
Want to see if SmartFox is right for your school? Talk with one of our experts today to find out more.
About the Author
Mark is the co-founder of Method Schools and SmartFox and has been working in the marketing and finance areas of K-12 education for two decades. He holds a B.S. in Business from Utah Valley University and an MBA from Brigham Young University. In his spare time he’s usually on his mountain bike.