6 Types of Virtual Student Organizations

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  • Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many student clubs at colleges are going virtual.
  • Student groups foster personal connections and hone important workplace skills.
  • These organizations can focus on service, academics, and career development.

Student clubs and organizations have been part of the traditional college experience for decades. Online students can also participate in these activities, which have expanded this year due to the transition to remote learning. Now, students can interact at a distance by using web-meeting tools and online community platforms like Zoom and CampusGroups.

According to Benjamin Starr, student organization coordinator at the University of Kentucky, "Student organizations play a vital role in fostering our campus community. … In this time of transition, the role of student organizations is just as important as ever."

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“We have already seen from many of our organizations that the bonds found within [student] groups can continue to be fostered virtually.”. Source: — Benjamin Starr, Coordinator for Student Organizations at the University of Kentucky

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The benefits of joining a student club or organization include meeting new people, hanging out with old friends, discovering scholarships, and making a difference in your community.

Before getting involved with your college, think about your goals and interests. Student-run organizations offer many focuses, including academics and education, social activities and hobbies, leadership opportunities, career development, cultural events, and community service projects.

6 Types of Virtual Student Groups You Can Join

Academic Clubs and Honor Societies

If you want to connect with students who share your major or interests in other subjects, look for academic clubs and honor societies.

Many collegiate honor societies maintain chapters around the globe.

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Golden Key is one of many collegiate honor societies with chapters around the globe. Joining this group gives you access to professional development webinars, online networking, virtual service projects, and more. Other international societies focus on specific fields of study; these include Delta Mu Delta (business), Psi Chi (psychology), and Sigma (nursing).

You can also seek out local chapters through your school. For example, Grand Canyon University's Delta Mu Delta chapter recently held a "virtual coffee" session with a guest speaker and networking activities. Some honor societies require a minimum GPA for membership, so be sure to check eligibility requirements before trying to join.

Academic clubs boast many benefits and can offer career exploration opportunities, peer mentoring, and more experience in the topics you're most interested in learning. Southern New Hampshire University supports educational clubs in areas such as communication, health information management, and criminal justice.

Social/Hobby Groups

A lot of student groups are established specifically for social interaction, and many have transitioned to an online format. From book clubs to gaming groups, chances are your college offers multiple options for socially inclined hobbyists.

Many social/hobby clubs have transitioned to an online format.

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Schools that have been predominantly online in the past have offered students the opportunity to connect outside of class through organizations that include more casual hobby clubs. For example, American Public University — a totally online institution — sponsors more than 70 student organizations, including social groups like the esports club, sports and wellness group, and writing club.

Traditional higher ed institutions like the University of Southern California are adapting to the virtual environment. The school's photography club is currently developing a Minecraft gallery to function as a virtual open house in which students can showcase their photographs.

Meanwhile, student members of Dickinson College's gaming club and dance theater group meet weekly using digital communication tools like Discord and Zoom.

Student Government

One major benefit of getting involved with student groups is the opportunity to gain leadership experience, which you can do by serving in a student government role. As a student representative, you'll interact with school administrators, faculty, and staff. Leadership roles can help you acquire the experience and skills necessary for careers in financial management, event planning, administration, and business management.

Leadership roles can help you acquire practical experience.

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Student groups are typically run by elected student officers and volunteer committees who work closely with a faculty or staff advisor. Century College provides resources and support to help student leaders recruit new members, hold effective meetings, and plan group activities online.

American University's virtual tool kit for student clubs includes leadership development classes and a monthly podcast dedicated to student leadership issues.

Starting a new student organization is another great way to not only gain leadership experience, but also increase the opportunities for students to engage and connect with one another. Check with your school's student affairs office or center for student engagement to explore the process of chartering a campus-recognized student organization.

Career Development Associations

If your priority for extracurricular activities is career development, you've got several options to consider. Academic groups and leadership positions can both contribute to career success, as can professional organizations with school chapters.

Associations such as the Financial Management Association and the American Psychological Association offer college students the chance to connect with real industry professionals. Look for virtual conferences, professional development webinars, networking events, and special interest groups to learn more about current workforce needs and hiring trends.

Some associations offer student membership options, whereas others sponsor school chapters. The University of Michigan's engineering school, for instance, maintains relationships with over a dozen engineering groups. Another organization with school chapters is Student Veterans of America, which helps military students and veterans make progress toward their career goals.

Diversity and Cultural Organizations

Student groups centered on diversity and culture consist of members who identify with a specific culture and celebrate topics such as language, religion, food, and music. These groups can also provide support and advocacy for students with shared beliefs, values, identities, and experiences.

Brown University's cultural groups, including the Korean-American Students Association and Afro-Latinx Alliance, currently offer online connections. Activities such as virtual board games, a speakers series, and a first-year mentoring program have expanded membership and students' awareness of cultural events.

At UCLA, students interested in learning more about deaf culture, American Sign Language, and Japanese drumming have opportunities to engage with their peers through Zoom activities.

Community Service Clubs

While many of the groups above are actively involved in community service projects, some groups are formed specifically for this purpose. Students interested in participating in service or activism-related activities can find both online and campus options.

A service organization associated with more than 300 U.S. college campuses, Alpha Phi Omega is currently connecting chapters with virtual service ideas, such as proofreading with Project Gutenberg.

Other service groups at your school may concentrate on fundraising for local needs or specific areas of interest, like environmental clubs.

Get Involved With a Virtual Student Club

The student groups listed above may be unique, but there's a lot of overlap among them, too. Leadership opportunities exist in all categories, and you may very well find yourself acquiring useful professional skills or performing community service in a social or cultural club.

Some universities are using online community portals to coordinate access to student clubs, organizations, and activities online. On these you can look for event calendars, communication channels, and interactive tools. Pasadena City College even hosted a virtual club rush to help students learn more about its clubs and organizations.

You can also reach out to your institution's student engagement office or public service office to find out what kinds of virtual clubs are available.

Feature Image: Deepak Sethi / E+ / Getty Images

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