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.

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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