Distance doesn’t deter online Penn Staters from forming student clubs

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Joining organizations is part of the quintessential college experience. But what if you’re one of the growing number of students going to school online?

Ray Vasquez, a Penn State World Campus student from Dallas, who lives more than 1,000 miles from University Park, started the World Campus Technology Club this year as a way to get more involved in college activities and collaborate with other students.

“I wanted to help people network and gather around a specific interest,” said Vasquez, who turns 27 in April. Vasquez has a full-time job as a training manager for a Dallas security firm in addition to taking classes toward dual bachelor’s degrees in information sciences and technology, and security and risk analysis.

More than 5 million students took at least one online course last year, according to the U.S. Education Department. Schedules, work and family commitments, and geographic separation make it more challenging for online students to connect with other students, said Terah Richardson, a World Campus academic adviser and staff adviser for the technology club. Online clubs let students socialize in a fun, informal way that’s different from their in-class interactions, she said.

“Our students want to be connected to Penn State, even at a distance." 

                             -- Terah Richardson, World Campus adviser

World Campus also has a psychology club with more than 200 members and a chapter of the Blue & White Society, the student arm of Penn State’s alumni organization.

“Our students want to be connected to Penn State, even at a distance," Richardson said. 

So far, Technology Club members are interacting on social media, but Vasquez expects them to “meet” online using technology such as Google hangouts, Adobe Connect and Elluminate Web conferencing. The club is helping promote a talk focused on online students as part of the Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology’s Start-up Week in April.

Even before the new club had a working website and social media presence, more than a dozen students from around the country had joined the new group. “We’re all just really excited,” said Vasquez.

Students are more likely to persevere in their studies when they feel involved with their school, Richardson said. “The more students become involved and feel a connection with Penn State, the more likely that they’re going to stay at Penn State. Any way that we can strengthen that connection is a positive.”

More information about Penn State's online technology programs is available on the World Campus website.

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Last Updated April 03, 2014