For some, the idea of online distance learning conjures up images of solitary students, working on their computers in isolated locations, with little sense of community. At the University of Louisville, nothing could be further from the truth. While students do perform their class work online at flexible and convenient times, the expert faculty at UofL go to great lengths to create an online community and feeling of camaraderie amongst students, no matter their locations.
Furthermore, community service opportunities often arise in locations across the country, providing excellent chances for distance learning students to interact with other UofL students, both traditional and online. This was precisely the case for online social work student James Zimmer.
For Zimmer, a husband, father, military serviceman, and distance learning student, the online programs at UofL’s Kent School of Social Work provided convenient learning opportunities that he was unable to find elsewhere. The sense of community that Zimmer felt at UofL’s Kent School while earning his Masters’ degree in social work, helped lead him to choose to take part in the Belk Bowl Service Project, offered to students in conjunction with the 2014 UofL football team’s trip to play at the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, NC.
Zimmer read an email which was sent out to all UofL students about the Belk Bowl Service Project. He did not hesitate to take part in what would become his first opportunity to directly interact with members of the UofL community in person. Zimmer worked along with other student volunteers, both from UofL as well as the University of Georgia. Together, they worked to improve facilities at the Ronald McDonald House in Charlotte. Their much appreciated work served to enhance the total experience of the children and families being served by the Ronald McDonald House.
Zimmer reported that he greatly enjoyed the community service project, which culminated with him and his family attending the 2014 Belk Bowl, alongside other UofL students and fans.
Although a distance learner, the sense of camaraderie Zimmer felt with his fellow students was strong before, after, and during the Belk Bowl Service Project. With the dynamic platform that UofL offers to e-learners, the faculty’s commitment to research and innovation shines through. This allows for all students, even those located in distant locations, to experience the true feeling of the Cardinal campus community.