Are Study Groups Available to Online College Students?

Increasingly, students seek to carry out coursework leading to degrees online, prompting searches for online study groups. Fortunately, there are a number of options for such projects available to them, each with specific benefits and, unfortunately, specific problems. A few such are discussed below.

Email Groups

Each member of a study group can be placed on an email list, receiving what other members send out and easily sending information to the other members of the list. Well-written emails can do much to convey information clearly and in detail, which greatly assists study groups in their purpose of helping members understand materials better. The asynchronous nature of email also allows for greater scheduling flexibility for group members. Not all emails are written well, however, and delays in drafting may exceed the time available for the study group to meet. Too, group emails run the risk of being blocked by spam filters. Even so, they tend to work well for older group members who are more likely to be acculturated to study as a slower, more stable practice.

Discussion Boards

Most if not all online schools, as well as learning management platforms used in traditional schools, offer discussion boards as part of their instructional materials. They are not seldom the venue that takes the place of the traditional classroom for the online student, and so they can also be used to conduct study groups. Online forums, like emails, have the benefits of asynchronous communication and the ability to permit detailed discussion of ideas. They also tend to be better about timing, as information is more quickly available on the forum than through checking emails. That rapidity, however, means that responses will be interrupted by other members sometimes. It also sometimes precludes the kind of good writing that allows forum posts to be effective study tools. There are also often problems in formatting, file uploading and linking, each of which tends to be of help in online study—but there is the benefit of leaving a record of conversation, which is also immensely helpful in study. More information about the issue appears from Devon Haynie and Virginia Heffernan.

Live Chat

Live chat offers nearly real-time interaction among members of the group, facilitating rapid discussion and interchange and thereby promoting group cohesion. It does not reward longer messages, however, and affords much in the way of interruption. Discussion is likely therefore to be disjointed, which is not helpful for study groups. Live chat also tends because of its speed to be less adherent to standards of usage and grammar than venues that promote more composition time. Still, the benefits of cohesion are ample, particularly for those who have done their work beforehand and can work primarily to answer questions and facilitate ongoing discussion.

Video Chat

Video chat allows members of the group to see one another and to speak to one another in real time, thus permitting the development of group cohesion and superior responsiveness to the needs of other members. There are likely to be fewer interruptions by members of each other, as well, which is beneficial. The problem involved in video chat is that of hardware; it requires working cameras and internet connections at high enough speeds to handle the data coming in and going out. Not all students will have access to the necessary infrastructure. For those who do, however, it is a remarkably good way to have an online study group.

There are doubtlessly other ways for students to get together and go over what their classes are trying to teach them. It is possible that face-to-face meetings can happen for students who live sufficiently close together, for example. But for most online college students, online study groups are what they have, so it is good that many options are available to them.

Related Resource: How Can I Become Socially Involved in College if I Study Online?