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14 Effective Ways to Create Community While Pursuing an Online Master’s Degree

Forming meaningful relationships is one of the most valuable parts of a graduate program, whether it’s in-person or online

Online learning is on the rise, with 60% of all postsecondary degree seekers taking some online classes and 30% studying exclusively online. If you’re pursuing a 100% online program, you’ll want to have a strategy for building relationships and community during your degree. 

This article covers 14 effective ways to form a community and maintain connections with peers and professors throughout your online master’s program.

As PAU alumna Arya Zale fondly recalled, “[Because of] the strong connections amongst our cohort…we were able to effectively navigate several challenges together and maintained a refreshing degree of humor.”

1. Participate Actively in Online Discussions

When able, engage in course discussions and forums provided by your instructors. Share your thoughts, ask questions, and respond to your peers' comments. These conversations are a form of active learning, which has been shown to be a more effective learning method than passive methods like pure lectures.

Additionally, make sure to be authentic in your responses–personal stories can form deeper connections than a bland, generic discussion post. This can help you establish connections with your classmates and instructors.

2. Create or Join Online Study Groups

Forming study groups with fellow students to collaborate on assignments, discuss coursework, and share resources can be another way to form connections. Tools like Zoom and Google Meet are great options for getting together online.

3. Attend Virtual Office Hours

Attend your professors' virtual office hours whenever possible–especially if you’re stressed about deadlines or your workload. You may find your instructors to be more compassionate and caring than you expect! Office hours and casual conversations are a great opportunity to ask questions and build relationships with your instructors. 

4. Participate in Webinars, Workshops, & Volunteer Opportunities

Many online programs, ours included, offer webinars, workshops, and guest lectures to augment class lectures. Prioritize attending these events to expand your knowledge and connect with experts and peers alike. Other opportunities outside of coursework can also enhance your experience and help you form connections. PAU alumna Victoria Guinn shared that through volunteering in a research lab and co-authoring a paper, “I developed strong professional relationships with faculty and students.”

5. Use Social Media and Online Forums

14% of students say their success has been hindered by feeling like they don’t belong at their institution. That’s why it’s especially important to find your niche–and you can even do so through social media! Joining relevant Slack channels, Discord servers, or Facebook groups is a great way to create a feeling of community. Can’t find one that’s a good fit? Start your own. You could create a Slack channel or Facebook group for a specific course or even your entire cohort. These platforms can be good for networking and sharing insights, making friends, and laying the groundwork for future professional relationships.

6. Join Networking Events and Conferences

Participate in online networking events and conferences in your field of study. These gatherings often include opportunities to connect with professionals, peers, and faculty.


7. Engage in Collaborative Projects

Engage in collaborative projects with classmates when required by your instructors. Working on group assignments can foster deeper connections and a shared sense of achievement.

8. Participate in Mentorship Programs

Some online programs offer mentorship opportunities. Consider connecting with mentors or mentoring other students. These relationships can carry beyond graduate school and into your future career.

9. Join Alumni Associations

Join your school's online alumni association or networking groups. Alumni can provide valuable insights and connections in your chosen field. Alumni associations often also organize local, in-person events in various cities throughout the country, allowing you to network in-person as well. PAU has recently hosted Brunch & Learnsalumni mixers at conferences, and more.

10. Utilize Email and Messaging Apps

Stay in touch with your peers and professors through email, messaging apps, or video calls to discuss coursework, seek advice, or simply catch up. Effective communication can help you stay connected and on track. Always keep it friendly, clear, and direct. 

11. Share Your Knowledge

Offer your expertise or help to your peers when appropriate. Sharing your knowledge can strengthen your connections and reputation within the online community. But remember, these relationships are a two-way street, so try not to dominate the online conversation. Always make space for others and listen to your peers’ insights.

12. Attend Virtual Social Events

Some online programs organize virtual social events, such as online happy hours, trivia nights, or game nights to offer students a chance to socialize. Attending these events is a great way to unwind and make friends in a low-stakes, non-academic setting. 

13. Support and Encourage Others

Be supportive and encouraging of your peers. Building a positive and collaborative community benefits everyone. When you look out for others, they’re likely to do the same for you, helping everyone feel more connected and less alone in their online program experience.

14. Create and Maintain a Professional Online Presence

Create and maintain a professional online presence through LinkedIn, a personal website, or other platforms. This can help you stay connected with your existing network and forge new relationships with others in your field.


Remember that forming a community while earning an online degree takes effort and active participation. While at times it can be tough to stay motivated, keep on task, and deal with occasional technical glitches, being proactive in reaching out, attending events, and contributing to discussions helps build meaningful connections. Creating and sustaining a strong sense of community with your online program will benefit not only your academic journey, but your professional future as well.