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Find Your Learning Community—Online

April 23, 2019 by Karen Grossman |

Samira Khan smiling and holding diplomaWhen Samira Khan began an online graduate degree program at UNC Greensboro, she wasn’t sure what to expect of online learning.

She soon found she was part of an online community where she never felt alone.

In Charge of Your Learning

She switched to the online Master’s in Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) from another program and found she had more flexibility to handle her busy life—family, job, and school.

“I was in charge of my time and I was in charge of my learning,” she says. “That’s pretty much in itself very empowering.”

 Online but Never Alone

Interacting with others is a big part of online learning’s design. The encouraging feedback others offered about her projects gave her confidence. “I felt like I wasn’t being judged, but I was part of a learning community that constantly encouraged me and built me up,” she says.

The online platform felt safe and helped give everyone a voice. Everyone participates. “In the online community, we all got to raise our hand,” she says. “We all got to give feedback.”

Students use discussion boards, video conferencing, email, online learning management systems, and more to complete coursework and connect.

Khan got to know her professors as well, meeting for coffee on campus to discuss a paper and talk about campus events. She says she built real intellectual connections in the class and still keeps in touch with classmates in her same profession.

Pursuing Higher Education

Khan moved to North Carolina in 2010 after first immigrating to Canada. She had degrees from her native Pakistan but says they have little value in the United States, and she was passionate about earning a master’s degree here. She graduated with her master’s from UNCG in December 2017 and is now working toward a doctorate.

“I always had that desire to earn the same level of education that I had back home and improve my English,” she says. 

Vision Comes to Life

Through the program, Khan has been able to use her own experiences to help others. A class project will soon be a reality at the Islamic Center of the Triad in Greensboro, where she serves on the board.

For the project, she designed a program to provide access to free education online to help local female refugees.

“They don’t have a car, they have little kids, and they have no finances to go to school,” she says. She also raised funds to get laptops for the program. 

From Classroom to Community

The idea also led to a job teaching ESL online at a local community college. Khan can relate to her ESL students’ struggles because she’s been there.

Many of her students do not have computer skills, so Khan helps them get started and encourages them to pursue further education as well.

“Once I show them the computer, that takes the fear out of their minds,” she says. “Online learning is a dream come true for most people.” 

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