If You Build It, They Will Come: Create Virtual Student Organizations

If You Build It, They Will Come: Create Virtual Student Organizations

Elizabeth G. Donnellan (Kaplan University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5178-4.ch009
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Students attending traditional or online universities will benefit from membership in a virtual club. This chapter provides specific information about tools used to create, administer, and motivate participation in virtual college clubs. To enhance the club experience, suggestions are offered for creating interactive clubrooms, utilizing specific social media tools, and providing unique club events all as a virtual experience. A case study is included to demonstrate how students of a major online university participate in virtual club events. Results of this case study indicate a correlation between students who can easily access club tools and events and participation. Further, students who participate in events report greater satisfaction with their overall university experience.
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With the advent of online learning, students and their professors worked together to create learning communities in their classrooms. Most universities grappled with the issue of how to create authentic learning experiences in the abstract of virtual classrooms (Smart & Cappel, 2006). These universities adopted a standard classroom structure that mimicked traditional classrooms. The structure of these classrooms included tools for collaborative learning such as discussion board, live chat areas, and areas for document storage (Zhu, 2012). Most universities that offer distance-learning classes purchase platform services from virtual learning companies who provide the framework for the classroom shells. The arrangement of the components is selected and supported by these companies. Therefore, there is not much opportunity for rearranging course structure. Over time, online students and faculty gained comfort interacting within these conceptual spaces in the classroom despite their lack of control over the creation of it (Zhu, Valcke, & Schellens, 2008).

With the expanded use of virtual classes and the inception of online universities, more students warmed to the idea of creating a virtual, academic life. Many students developed relationships with their classmates based solely on virtual interaction opening new possibilities for collaboration (Smith, Coldwell, Smith, & Murphy, 2005). Like pioneers in a new world, college officials studied and proposed tweaks to the online format and course delivery (Veerman & Veldhuis, 2001). The goal was to create interactive experiences that felt similar to those of a traditional university. Most officials found that student and faculty satisfaction increased with the implementation of innovations that created a sense of personal control in the virtual environment (Santhanam, Sasidharan, & Webster, 2008). These innovations enhanced the student's ability to access synchronous (e.g. live lecture) and asynchronous features of the class (e.g. discussion board). Popularity with online learning grew rapidly as more adults living outside major metropolitan areas enrolled in virtual classes and major universities embraced the cheaper delivery of virtual classes.

Students attending online universities expressed interest in participating in traditional college experiences similar to the ones offered by traditional universities. University officials in the early days of online learning struggled to meet the challenge. The obstacles were in creating a virtual space that could be monitored by school officials and accessible to members, recruiting and maintaining membership, and offering worthwhile activities (Santhanam et al., 2008). Membership in virtual clubs was mostly restricted to the most tech savvy and enthusiastic students.

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