By Zane Ewton
Online learning is a unique experience. Online students do not have the chance to hang out in the hallway before class. They do not get lunch in the cafeteria. They do not get to play volleyball on the sand courts by the pool.
A group of online students wanted a deeper connection with Grand Canyon University despite never setting foot on its campus.
How have they done it?
Facebook, of course.
Elementary education major Ruth DuVan is a standard online student. Her life wasn’t going in the direction she wanted, so she returned to school to find a new purpose. During her prerequisite courses, she made friends with students from various programs of study and they connected on Facebook, as they probably would not meet up in the same classes later.
“Interacting with other students on the GCU Facebook and Twitter pages helps me feel not so alone in this journey through school,” DuVan says. “These people encourage me, whether they know it or not, to keep doing what I am doing.”
Johnathan Clayborn of El Mirage, Ariz., enrolled at GCU knowing that work and family would make it difficult to attend classes on campus. The secondary education major already has applied for a master’s program at GCU and intends on following that up with dual doctorates in psychology and education.
Clayborn appreciates that social media allow him to stay connected with the school, keeping up on news and events on campus. He feels that he’s part of something bigger.
“It also allows me to develop a network of my collegiate peers,” he says. “I ‘friend’ some people from the school who are pursuing similar degrees, others because they're fun to talk to, and most importantly because a strong support network is a key component of success. The more ’Lopes you know, the more resources you have.”
Donn Gallon, a master’s student in education, is an Air Force veteran who served in Desert Storm. Gallon always wanted to be a teacher, but he went to work for the Transportation Security Administration after 9-11. He left there last November and enrolled at GCU.
Searching for information about the University online, he stumbled across the GCU Facebook pages and knew he has found a worthwhile resource.
“I feel the Facebook pages are a natural extension of the University, especially for the online students,” Gallon says. “We get the news about GCU in real time and we can share our successes and frustrations there with other GCU students and staff.”
Gallon feels as if he has taken on a role on Facebook as a volunteer student adviser and cheerleader. He typically has ANGEL open in one window and Facebook in another.
Carolyn Leff already had two feet in social media before she enrolled at GCU. She owns her own social media company called LuvYourSocialMedia and works primarily with political candidates on their social media campaigns. Friends dubbed her the “Facebook Queen” for her use of social media tools to recruit and maintain campaign volunteers.
Leff wanted to return to school but had yet to find a program that sparked her interests, namely policy and politics. That was until she saw the MPA in government and policy program at GCU.
“This is what GCU is all about — finding your purpose,” she says. “My purpose is to do what I love and get paid for it. I love social media and I love politics. I found my love in cyberspace in social media. Social media will only get more powerful as time goes on.
“I want to be active on campus. An online student like me can feel part of the GCU community by interacting on Facebook.”
Check out the main GCU Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/GrandCanyonU.
Contact Zane Ewton at 639.7086 or [email protected].