The role of the online learning coordinator has never been more critical than right now, in the middle of a global pandemic.
By: Xuan You
As international schools went through the reopening process, many of their teachers and students remained isolated from their countries and/or schools due to travel restrictions and health concerns. Even teachers who could physically be in class were adopting new roles of supporting students in online courses that were being taught remotely.
As schools devise back-to-school plans, many are delegating staff members to serve as online learning coordinators for students who need additional support in the virtual education environment. This is something that I recommend because many students have issues with time management. Online teachers can be encouraging, knowledgeable, and supportive, but if the student is simply not logging in and doing the work, there is nothing the online teacher can do to help move the educational bar.
Here are five steps that all online learning coordinators can take to support distance learning for both teachers and students:
- Understand and communicate students’ needs. If applicable, supply the online teacher with each student’s individual education plan (IEP) at or before the start of the course. Knowing the specific modifications that must be made for each student, as well as having a basic understanding of the student’s needs and learning style, will help the student and teacher get started on the right foot - making a big difference in overall student/teacher experience. Reach out to the online teacher to discuss your students’ unique needs.
- Show students how to use online learning. If your school does not have a student orientation for online courses, now is the time to develop one. Ideally, if you have the students all in one class, you can walk through the orientation with them as a group. Your students will save a lot of frustration if they enter their online course with a strong understanding of expectations on how an online course works. Although students are often tech-savvy you cannot assume they have experience with more structured online learning methods.
- Use a regular cadence for “checking in.” Setting up a time to communicate with the online teacher at the start of class is a wonderful way to start the semester off right, and lets the teacher know you are available to support the student should the need arise. Check in with the teacher at regular intervals throughout the semester to make sure the student is on track.
- Respond in a timely manner. Be timely in your responsiveness to the online teacher, who should have a protocol regarding important times to reach out to you, the student’s local online learning coordinator. Teachers often reach out for example, if a student is falling behind, not logging in, or otherwise exhibiting behavior for which the teacher has concerns. Be sure to show professional courtesy by responding as soon as possible; creating strong open lines of communication early with the teacher is extremely important.
- Monitor and respond to student progress. Stay in regular touch with students taking online courses, especially if they are falling behind. Sooner rather than later is the best policy. Many online courses do not “stop” for a student who is lagging. The farther a student falls behind, the more discouraging it can be and harder to catch up. At the start of each week, review the course homepage and weekly objectives with the entire class. Read the online teacher’s guide for the week out loud together. Depending on the need, you may even want students to quickly go through the lessons themselves so that you and the students know what is ahead.
Remember, no matter where we are located or how we’re delivering education, all teachers and support staff are committed to helping students succeed. Great learning is not constrained by the format or location—even during a disruptive event like the global pandemic. By working together, we can create a memorable learning and teaching experience for everyone.
About the author
Xuan You is Director of Global Programs and Services for VHS Learning, a nonprofit provider of online courses for middle and high schools. In this role, she works closely with administrators, teachers, and students from more than 40 countries to provide them collaborative and engaging online learning opportunities.
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