Can Online Learning Be Social?

When one chooses to forego the in class experience for the convenience of an online course, they do so for a multitude of reasons. Regardless of the reason, those students who choose to take a course online deny themselves the social aspect of taking a class in person. But often times online education is the only choice, so can this social issue attributed to eLearning be remedied? Yes and no, nothing can replace physically interacting with your classmates before, after, and during class – but these these 4 things can help to bridge the social gap.


1. Encourage interaction and collaboration 

Often times students take classes online because they are trying to avoid the social aspect of in person classes, this should not be the reason for online courses. From orientation to finals, collaboration and interaction should be encouraged and rewarded. Interaction and collaboration in the classroom is an excellent way for students to gain more knowledge, new perspectives, new connections, and build social skills.


2. Meet in person at least once

If possible, orientation should be in a classroom setting. It is important to establish face to face contact at least once to enhance the social experience. Trust in relationships is easier to build when you have met a person face-to-face. Although it goes against the concept of an online class, it will also have an effect on the retention of students – as trust is built so is accountability.


3. Provide effective ways to communicate

Message boards like Blackboard, Slack, Google Docs, and messenger applications, are all effective ways to provide students with a way to instantly communicate with one another. Students should be given the more formal channels of communication such as email, in addition to the more instant and less formal channels such as messenger apps. Effective and efficient communication will help bridge the social gap even more as communication technologies advance.


4. Incorporate social media

Encourage users to share what they experience in their online classes, online. As well, encourage users to connect with their classmates on social media. By encouraging the involvement of social media, you are utilizing a platform which is proven highly effective at humanizing online interaction. If you are an educational institute, you are creating excellent media about your programs.


With these four points you will not be able to eliminate the isolation that one feels when taking an online class, but you will be able to minimize – and create a better learning experience for students.





Pappas, Christopher. “8 Top Tips to Create an Effective Social Learning Strategy.” ELearning Industry. ELearning Industry, 07 Nov. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2017. <;.

Phirangee, Krystle. “Students’ Perceptions of Learner-Learner Interactions that Weaken a Sense of Community in an Online Learning Environment.” Online Learning 20.4 (2016): n. pag. Web.

McInnerney, J. M., & Roberts, T. S. (2004). Online Learning: Social Interaction and the Creation of a Sense of Community. Educational Technology & Society, 7 (3), 73-81.


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