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Building Relationships

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This is the seventh in a series of blog posts written by Michigan Virtual’s Regional Mentor Leaders to bring to life what mentors do to build and maintain a supportive online learner environment to help students be successful. If you are a mentor and would like to share a strategy, a success story, or another topic that illustrates how you support students, please email [email protected]
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For the past eight years, I have served as the Online Learning Coordinator, Online Mentoring Teacher, and Credit Recovery Coordinator at Coopersville Area Public Schools. In addition to these roles, I also teach business and technology classes and oversee our school’s senior internship program. While I clearly wear many hats throughout the day, I take great pride in being able to spend quality time with my online learners and provide them with the support that they need.

When students have first determined to take an online course, I help them identify possible course options and complete the enrollment process with them. This can sometimes be time consuming and confusing and requires knowledge of different enrollment and learning platforms from different providers. Throughout their time enrolled in online courses, I work directly with students until they complete their course work with all of these programs. This includes specific, set times to meet with my students as well as occasional, unannounced check-ins when I can tell there might be an issue that needs to be discussed. I believe what makes a successful online learning program is the establishment of relationships with your students. Students often tell me that they trust me because I am friendly with them and talk to them about more than just their academics. Sometimes they even see me as a peer who is invested in their success; they’ve also told me that they want to succeed because they don’t want to let me down.

With regard to program structures and protocols, I believe it is necessary that a dedicated space be provided for students to work on their online courses and that students receive mentor support throughout their course. While I am often physically present in the space where students are working, I try not to be simply a monitor; I actively converse with students about their coursework and find opportunities where I can help and provide support. I also allow a fair amount of freedom within the room, allowing students to listen to music on their headphones and converse with one another about their coursework as long as they are staying on task. I remind them that while they have the ability to work at their own pace, trying to cram weeks worth of work into the final days of an online course is neither fun nor productive.

Another important component of successful mentoring is partnering with online teachers to help your students to be successful. A good mentor bridges the online instructor directly to students and is supportive of both the student and online instructor. Additionally, it is critical to include parents in your students’ online learning experience. Their support is vital in helping students be successful. Parents having just a basic understanding of how online learning works and where they can offer support can go a long way.

Mentoring online learners has been a very rewarding experience for me. I enjoy the challenges and opportunities that online learning has provided and love to help my students achieve success in their online course and prepare for success later in life.

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Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute

Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute

The Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI) is a non-biased organization that exists to expand Michigan’s ability to support new learning models, engage in active research to inform new policies in online and blended learning, and strengthen the state’s infrastructures for sharing best practices. MVLRI works with all online learning environments to develop the best practices for the industry as a whole.

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Limited Course Capacity

We’re sorry to inform you that we have reached capacity for several of our Semester 1 and Trimester 1 courses. You’ll notice when attempting to enroll students in our Student Learning Portal that some courses are unavailable. While we are no longer accepting new enrollments for these courses at this time, many courses continue to remain open for enrollment.

With many students across the state 100% remote, demand for our online courses is greater than ever before. Because every course we offer is taught by a Michigan-certified teacher, this high volume of enrollments has created capacity issues for our teachers who provide each and every student with individual feedback.

While the Michigan Virtual team anticipated and planned for significant increases in student enrollments this Fall, the increased demand we’ve experienced has been unprecedented. As a result, we are taking steps to hire even more part-and full-time teachers to support larger numbers of student enrollments for Semester 2 as well as for Trimester 2 and 3. 

For schools that still need online learning options this year, please fill out the form at the bottom of our virtual pathways page to meet with someone to discuss other solutions. While some of our teacher-led courses are full, we may still have the capacity to help you in upcoming terms or can discuss timing to implement a whole-school or collaborative program in which local teachers from your school/district use our online course content to teach students. We also have free course content and resources available for you to use.

We know this is an incredibly stressful time for all, and we’re sorry if the courses you’re looking for are unavailable. We never want to turn away a student who wants to learn from us. Our top concern, however, is student success, and we have a policy to not take on additional enrollments if we cannot guarantee that all students will have a quality online learning experience. 

We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate the unusually high volume of enrollments we are receiving.