I’ve always heard people say that one of the biggest takeaways from business school is the community and network you create. In fact, the community of Sternies is one of the main reasons why I ended up at Stern for my MBA. Prior to starting the program, I was so excited to meet my classmates, learn from their experiences, and build an amazing community. Though, given the current state of the world, I was nervous about how all of that would work with a hybrid learning model.
It’s true that the experience looks a bit different from what I had first expected while going through the application process. As the program was first getting started, it was certainly daunting to create connections and make friends with brand new classmates in a virtual environment. This wasn’t just a new experience for me, but it was a new experience for all of us. As soon as we all embraced that this year would be a bit different but we were all in it together, we were able to make just as meaningful of connections through screens as we would have in person.
So how did we create a community in a virtual environment? Follow these tips and tricks to learn how:
Find a platform where everyone can stay connected: Our cohort has been loving Slack. Having a platform where the entire class is connected offers opportunities for us to chat throughout the day, share resources, celebrate one another and more. We’ve created different channels for us to discuss different topics that we’re interested in like tech, gaming, popular tv shows, and fitness.
Turn your camera on (if you can!): If you are able to, consider keeping your camera on while in class or participating in group events. Of course, there are different reasons why we need to keep your camera off, but if you are able to, having your camera on helps create that in-person experience. Using video offers the ability to see reactions, body language, and emotions. The use of video can make that virtual zoom feel that much more like real life.
Leverage the chat function and emojis: The chat function on video conferencing sites adds an additional layer of communication and connection with classmates. It’s another place where you can engage with your peers and learn more about each other along the way. The emojis allow you to acknowledge different moments without having to unmute. You can show that you agree, that you have something to contribute, applaud a classmate and more just with emojis.
Don’t just use Zoom for class – host virtual gatherings as well: Zoom isn’t just a great mechanism for class, it’s also a great way to build connections with your peers. With Zoom, you can host coffee chats, game nights, get togethers, open mics and more. It allows us to get together safely beyond just that classroom environment.
Bring elements of your personal life into the camera (if you feel comfortable!): It always brings the class joy when we get little glimpses of each others’ lives via Zoom. Whenever a cat decides to come on screen or a loved one makes a cameo, you can see large smiles across the grid of faces on Zoom. Getting that little glimpse of people’s lives is a reminder that we’re all Zooming from home during a challenging time — and we’re all in it together.