Visiting Campus as an Online Student

Drexel University sometimes offers a class concurrently online and face to face. Online students like me attend asynchronously, learning through discussion boards, readings, videos, and activities. The face-to-face students meet once a week, do the same activities, and have access to everything online, but the discussion board isn’t required if they attend class.

One class I’m taking this quarter, Users, Services & Resources, operates with that dual structure. My professor made it clear at the beginning of the quarter that if any online student wants to come to a lecture at any point, they are more than welcome. I decided to take him up on that offer this week. I switched my Tuesday work hours to Saturday, grabbed a round trip train ticket, and set off. Was it worth it? I think so. Below are the top five benefits I got out of my trip:

5. Catch up on homework on the train.

My train ride into Philadelphia is approximately 1.5 hours each direction. I had the option to drive, but between gas, parking, and toll roads, the train was cheaper! That gave me plenty of time to read articles and watch lectures on both the way in and way out. I work full time, so it was incredible to have time during a weekday to focus on class without being exhausted from a full day of public library work.

4. Explore on-campus resources.

I gave myself enough time on campus that day to explore the campus and see what is available. After obtaining a student ID, my first stop was the library. I wandered the stacks to get a feel for their collection and took note of displays, bulletin boards with advertised events, layout and technology choices, and quiet study areas. I also oohed and ahhed over their collaborative spaces. For example, I learned that students have access to a Data Visualization Zone that I might go back to explore someday. Visiting your school also means a chance to take advantage of smaller resources, like an entire lineup of food trucks and the school store.

3. Meet others in your program.

There were only 4 other students in the face-to-face lecture I attended, but I valued getting to meet and chat with them for however brief a time. I may be an introvert, but meeting folks in person somehow solidified the idea of a cohort—a group of people who band together and support one another through some commonality.

2. Rekindle excitement.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been getting a bit burnt out. This is my third quarter of school, and taking multiple courses while working full time and trying to keep up some semblance of hobbies outside of it can be draining. While I love the quarter system format, it does not allow one much time to rest between classes. I’m still excited about this field and my studies, but the excitement that I initially felt to take every opportunity possible in grad school was beginning to lay dormant. Spending time on-campus, both in class and out, helped me to rekindle that excitement. Being present in a culture and environment so attuned to learning and research was reinvigorating.

1. Authentic conversations with leaders in your field.

Most Drexel professors are wonderful at responding to emails when you have questions about class content or library science more generally, but nothing can replace the authentic, barrier-free conversation that occurs when you’re in the same room. I emailed my professor in advance to let him know I was coming that day and ask if there was time for me to ask a few questions about future classes and studies. We got out of class a bit early and thought we’d have plenty of time to chat before the next class started, but we both lost track of time as we discussed the future of the program and what classes will most tie in with my learning interests. I walked away excited about future research possibilities, including the name of a professor to whom I’ll reach out regarding potential independent study interests. I would have never thought an independent study was possible as an online student before this meeting. Heck, I may not have thought that the things I’m interested in are of any interest to others! I haven’t had much contact with my advisor, so working things out with my professor while discussing current research in our area of study was a massive benefit.

I am incredibly grateful that I had this opportunity to visit Drexel for a day. If you have the chance to visit your school, I encourage you to take it. Even if it’s not to attend a lecture, you’ll get something valuable out of the experience. Embrace the chance to talk to a faculty member, focus on your role as a student, spend some time in a library or innovation lab, and soak in the learning culture. Huge shout out to my friend Jake for letting my stay at his place and to Dr. Gorichanaz for opening his classroom to online students. I’m sure I’ll be back for future classes.

If you’re an online student, what would you prioritize if you visited campus for a day? Leave a comment below!

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