COLUMN: Online programs, social media engagement appeal to international students 


Dan Hahn

Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Dan Hahn, Columnist

I am an online graduate student studying for my MA from a distance of about 50 miles away from Charleston, IL.  When I saw that The News theme of the week was international students, I thought that distance learning students like me share common ground with international students.

First of all, both online students and international students help Eastern generate additional revenue from tuition. I personally chose Eastern because there are not many English MA programs that have an online option.

I imagine international students looking for an advanced degree may also be interested in the English department’s MA program since it can be completed entirely online.

Also similar to international students who would attend from different time zones, I am attracted to the flexibility online degree programs offer.

For where I am in my life, an absence of online courses means I could not attend graduate school, end of story. I am sure that there are many busy adults around Illinois, the United States, and the globe that are in similar situations.

Since I live relatively close to Eastern, I do like to visit campus occasionally to attend a talk if I am able. As a matter of fact, this semester I am required to come to campus to observe undergraduate composition courses as well as present at the English Studies conference. 

Of course, visiting campus as an online student is not a requirement, but I would argue it is critically important. When online students come to town for a campus visit, it is generally good for the school, the local economy, and the visitors’ sense of belonging.

I for one do not feel like I belong at a school unless I have walked around the campus, got some branded merch from the bookstore, and bought a coffee from a local cafe. 

When I think of international students, I think of the first graduate program I attended. I graduated with a Master of Science from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

It is now called the ISchool, but my job at the time was as a graduate assistant supporting entirely online courses which had students and lecturers joining from all over the world. 

Simply put, by investing in the infrastructure that attracts remote students, administration is simultaneously investing in attracting international students.

I have witnessed firsthand that having robust online course offerings will help attract students from all over the world. So, academic departments at Eastern should explore ways they can modernize coursework and deliver credentials online.

Additionally, students, faculty, staff and the community (including alumni and townies) can help attract more international students by engaging on social media. 

Eastern has many social media channels that act as outreach. When the community interacts with media affiliated with Eastern, including The News, perspective students from across the web will see the vibrant and welcoming community Eastern has to offer.

As someone who writes for The NewsI enjoy seeing social media posts get engagements, likes, comments and so forth. Feedback is a great thing when you spend an hour or so of your week, every week of the semester, writing a column.
But, it is also important to remember that our digital community can be used as an attractive form of marketing to draw in perspective students from around the world. 

Cultivating a sense of community online is good for local businesses, good for the school culture, and culturally enriching for everyone.

Not to mention, offering an extensive portfolio of online degrees is a great way to attract students the world over, and ensure relevancy for both past and future generations of students in the ever-changing landscape of higher education.

Dan Hahn is an English composition/rhetoric graduate student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.