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Creating Conditions that Promote Success in Online Learning

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This is the fourth 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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Two colleagues planningReflecting 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.

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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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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.