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What Do Online Students and Astronauts Have in Common?

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Studying online is not easy. Usually, this pursuit is undertaken by busy adults with demanding career and family obligations. Often, the burden of online learning is also felt by the student’s family as they take on more responsibilities at home to help lighten the load. Moreover, attending a school online means being physically isolated from one’s professors and peers (although there are many ways to form connections with these groups).

This brings to mind another group of people who face many similar problems (and then some), albeit in a more high-stakes and pressure-laden environment that happens to be 420 kilometers above Earth. I’m talking about astronauts. So, what exactly do online students and astronauts have in common? There are at least three things.

1. Isolation

Right now, astronauts live and work aboard the International Space Station miles from their family and friends for many months. Their schedules are incredibly busy – even time for brushing their teeth is planned in advance. Although online students are physically with their families, sometimes it feels like they’re miles away when you’re fully absorbed by schoolwork. Establishing routines, prioritizing and creating manageable schedules are key to balancing work, school and family life.

2. Remote Support

Astronauts are supported by experts on the ground. In fact, astronauts’ stints in space represent the culmination of years of work done by scientists, engineers and countless others involved in space exploration. Online students are also supported remotely. Administrators, professors, course designers, success coaches, IT professionals and others work on ensuring a positive learning experience. Appreciation for the roles of others, respectful communication and empathy are equally important in orbit and on the ground. Like astronauts, online students need to hone communication skills to initiate connections, help each other and ask others for help when it’s needed to accomplish their mission.

3. Reaching for the Stars

Orbiting the Earth, traveling to the moon and, perhaps one day, even Mars, astronauts live and work among stars. But long before they get there, those who become astronauts dream big and begin reaching for the stars through motivation, determination and hard work. Online students do the same. Despite obstacles, set-backs and personal circumstances, we build dreams and hopes and find ways to make them a reality. How often do we hear the comment, “I just don’t know how you do it!” Frankly, many of us don’t know that either, but we press on undeterred. We are focused, we are resilient and we are reaching for the stars.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.

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