Online education is growing in leaps and bounds. The benefits of this flexible course delivery method are clear, but the challenges of delivering content via technology can be overwhelming. The research indicates that the technology hurdles, for both students and instructors, can negatively impact success and retention. For many instructors, the time required to support students in their use of the technology decreases the amount of time actually dedicated to teaching the subject.
A second critical area of success for online students lies in the ability to feel connected through the building of a learning community. Instructors have varying abilities in creating this environment in an online environment, with which they themselves may not be entirely comfortable.
In 2003, WSU Online began a program of placing Virtual Facilitators, now Virtual Mentors, into nine online courses. The role of the Virtual Mentor is to provide support to the students in the class in their use of technology, finding resources, navigating the course space, and building community. This has the potential to increase student satisfaction, success, and retention. In addition, instructors are left with more time to focus on the subject matter. The program has grown to 24 Virtual Mentors supporting 82 classes.
This program at WSU, which recently won an Innovation Award in Online Student Services, is totally funded by the student government—just one indication of the students’ perceptions of the benefits and success of this program.
This webinar will review the most up-to-date literature related to student and instructor satisfaction in online courses. Presenters will also discuss the obstacles and lessons learned as WSU developed its program. Participants will explore the role of the mentor, examine evaluation materials, learn how to train mentors, provide ongoing support, and will begin to develop an implementation plan for their own campuses.
- Discover the research foundation behind the Virtual Mentor (VM) program
- Learn how the program at WSU has grown and developed over the past decade
- The role, responsibilities, and job description of the VM
- The information sent to instructors about the VM program
- The training program used for the VM program
- The necessity and value of providing an ongoing training and support system for the VMs
- The evaluation materials used for the program
- Develop a plan for implementation
- 2-year institutions and 4-year institutions
- Vice President Academic Affairs/Instruction
- Dean of Instruction
- Dean of Student Services/Affairs
- Faculty (full and part-time)
- Retention Specialist
- Student Life
- First Year Experience
- Online Learning