Reflecting on what it takes to mentor students taking classes online, it is important that you have a brief discussion before students enroll in a course online to see what they might be interested in taking. Sometimes students take core, elective, or both core and elective courses, so providing individual students’ options and course information is important to properly place them.
Next, it is important to create an environment for online learning that helps set classroom expectations for students supporting individual student needs. I have found that working directly with students individually in a classroom setting has been very beneficial for them. Students like it when I check in with them in our computer lab while they’re at their seats. Whether it is going over progress, course activities, or just checking in, they like knowing that they are supported and have someone to go to when they need help with their course or need technical support.
I also believe that having weekly communication with all students is vital to student success. A good mentor is always mentoring online students – not monitoring – so building individual relationships with students is essential to their success. During this process, mentors should be identifying their most at-risk students and finding ways to support them. Whether this is reviewing progress, pacing, and course work or providing ideas on how to approach an assignment or activity, it is important to recognize what your students’ needs are.
Another important piece to mentoring online students is building relationships and communications with online instructors. Whether that is through email or phone conversations, it helps the online instructors with my students who need additional support or follow up with course work, instructions, or technical concerns within their courses. I have found that this relationship piece can be critical to helping students be successful.
A good mentor has a plan for what they need to accomplish each day. Sometimes just putting together a short To Do list for the day helps me stay focused on making sure I do not miss the needs of my students, and students appreciate when I have the information they need and a quick turn around on their concerns. I try to make myself available as much as possible outside of the traditional school day for my students so if they have a need or a problem, I can help them work through it.
Finally, the goal of every mentor should be the success of their students. When students can see you have a true interest in their success and you celebrate their accomplishments with them, they get excited to share their progress with you and their activities or how they are doing in their course. Mentoring students can be challenging and very difficult due to many factors – pupil accounting, everything typically being done on an individual level – but to me as an educator, it is extremely rewarding to help my students be successful and excited about their learning.