The recent Student Survey looked at how students connect and how this generates a sense of community. Some students are fearful of social media or of being overwhelmed by emails. When I first studied by distance learning, many years ago and with a different institution, these opportunities didn’t exist and it was a very lonely experience. Now, the use of the internet opens doors to fellow students to see and share work and ideas.
Some students commented that they don’t remember to check their oca emailor struggle to manage multiple email accounts. You don’t have to! In gmail, if you go to the ‘cog’ top right, and then settings, you will see a list of blue tabs across the screen starting with ‘General’. Go to the tab ‘Forwarding and POP/IMAP’ and you will be able to forward your OCA mail to your usual email account. It is important to check these emails as OCA uses this for important communications about assessment changes etc.
There are several ways to connect with fellow students. The oca-student website has forums to introduce yourself, discuss topics, and ask questions. Several tutors are involved with the forums and respond to or instigate discussions. The Coffee Shop, as you might expect, has the liveliest chatter.
What about students near you? Under ‘Comms’ and then ‘Course Mates’, there is a tab for ‘Location Map’ (not available on ipad). This allows you to see where in the world (and I mean world) your fellow students are, and to check out who might live in your area. Enter your own location following the directions at the top of the map. Rest assured, it doesn’t show your house or detailed address, just your approximate location and profile.
Who might be studying the same course as you? Another ‘Course Mates’ tab is ‘Learning Logs’ where you can input your course area and see fellow students’ learning logs. Not everyone chooses to share their online log, but it is well worth doing so. Not only is it great to see others’ different approaches, you can get really helpful comments and feedback.
Under ‘Studies’, ‘My Course’, for each course, you have a tab ‘Course Discussions’ where you can join an email group for that course.
Many people use social media to find, chat and share work with fellow students. The most popular method is Facebook. There are a number of student-run, unofficial, Facebook groups, generally subject based, but some have a wider focus, such as the Sketchbook Group and the Store for recycling books, materials etc. These groups are generally ‘closed’ and you have to click a ‘Join’ button to request to join. A list of these can be found as a ‘sticky’ post at the top of the Coffee Shop forum, or by searching in Facebook for ‘OCA’. If you don’t have a Facebook account, it is very straight forward to set one up. You only need give minimal information (if fact, I suggest that you do), and a post in a closed OCA group cannot be seen outside that group. The strengths of Facebook are its immediacy and its ability to share images. Give it a go!
There are other ways of getting together such as Skype and Google Hangouts. OCA has also set up Instagram and Pinterest pin boards. I’ll talk about these in a future article.
Fine Art Representative