Sure, you won’t see your classmates every week as an online student, but you can still build meaningful, lifelong friendships. Here’s where to find them.
There are a lot of things to get excited about when starting a new online course. You don’t have a commute or lecture timetable to follow. It’s a lot easier to fit your uni work around your daily life.
But it’s also common to worry about the isolation factor—because how exactly do you make new friends when you’re not physically on campus?
We’re here to tell you there are plenty of ways to bond with your classmates online, and build those friendships that will see you through the highs and lows of uni life.
Here are six of the best ways to meet new friends at university when you study online.
Where to make friends as an online student
1. Through class discussion forums
While you won’t have face-to-face tutorials, you'll have a chance to take part in class discussions through your university’s learning management system (LMS). Your teacher uses this platform to set up topics for everyone to comment on each week—but you can also start your own threads and private chats.
Use these forums to introduce yourself, chat about readings or assignments, and even find likeminded people for a study group. It’s the best place to get to know classmates during your first few weeks.
2. In private Facebook Groups
All universities have official (or unofficial) private Facebook Groups, where other students organise study groups, social catch ups and extracurricular activities. This is a great spot for making new online friends, and even finding people who live in your local area.
Here are the major groups to check out if you study online with one of our partner universities.
|University||Social Facebook Groups to join|
|Australian Catholic University||ACU Discussion Group|
|Australian National University||New @ANU|
|Bond University||Bond University|
|Charles Sturt University||Charles Sturt Social|
|CQUniversity||CQUniversity Students Group|
|Edith Cowan University||Edith Cowan University (ECU)|
|Flinders University||Overheard at Flinders University|
|Griffith University|| Griffith University
|La Trobe University|
|Macquarie University|| Macquarie Students 2022
Macquarie Uni Discussion Group
|Murdoch University||New Students at Murdoch University|
|RMIT University|| RMIT Discussion Group
RMIT 2022 First Years
|Southern Cross University||New to SCU|
|Swinburne University of Technology||Swinburne 2022|
|The University of Adelaide||University of Adelaide|
|The University of Newcastle||New to the University of Newcastle|
|The University of Notre Dame Australia||Notre Dame Uni Students|
|University of New England|| UNE Students
|University of South Australia||UniSA Online Student Group|
|University of Tasmania||Distance Students at UTAS|
|University of Technology Sydney|
|UNSW|| UNSW Discussion Group
UNSW First Years 2022
3. In study groups and online clubs
If you feel like those weekly class chats just aren’t cutting it and you want to get closer to some classmates, start or join a study group. You don’t have to meet up in person to study together—you can use Zoom, Microsoft Teams or some other free video conferencing tool to hang out and keep each other motivated. Check to see if your department has an existing study group by visiting your LMS.
Another option is to start your own online club, like a book or movie club, where you can catch up with people more socially. Over 175,000 people are studying online across Australia in 2022, and a lot of them will be keen to meet new friends too, so they’ll be grateful when you suggest the idea!
4. Through group assignments
Though we can probably all agree that group assignments aren’t the most fun (there’s always someone who slacks off!), they are a great way to get to know a smaller group when you’re studying online.
If your course has group assessments, you’ll be randomly assigned to a group, and it will be your responsibility to meet and collaborate virtually. The upside is that you’ll be nudged into meeting people you wouldn’t normally meet—and people who are more likely to share your interests. Just make sure you’re active and participate in these meetings, and you could end up with a study friend for the rest of your course.
5. During internships
Want to meet people in person while you’re studying online? Check if your course has an internship or placement elective. You can also ask your lecturers and tutors for their advice about securing an industry internship outside of your course.
Not only will you learn on the job, but you’ll meet people you could end up working with in the future. Some online courses like the University of South Australia’s MBA program even give you the chance to sign up for international study tours—which are perfect for getting outside your comfort zone and meeting new friends!
6. Through peer mentoring programs
Your university knows how tough it can be to find friends online as a new student, which is why they offer peer mentorship programs. You can sign up during your first few weeks of classes to get matched up with a more experienced student, who will help you find your feet and build your confidence—and maybe even build a friendship. Just search your uni website for more info. Here are examples from Swinburne and RMIT.
The best apps to make friends in Australia
Wondering how to make friends online outside of uni? These friend-finder apps can help you expand your social circle while you’re busy studying from home:
Online uni friends add so much joy to your life because they know exactly what it’s like to juggle study with life, work, family and everything in between. Try these tips for finding your people and see how you go. While building virtual friendships can take a bit of extra time and patience, it's worth it in the end.