Sandy Keeter is a Professor in the Information Technology Department at Seminole State College in Florida.
There are so many ways we can support our students. I consider the first level of support to be us educators and teachers. From having well-designed classes, to our thoughtful communication and being present, we aim to ensure all students are successful.
But for some students, it might take more—especially if they’re totally online (which might be difficult for the average student).
So how can you give them more? Collective support from peers and publishers, college and community, offers students exponentially more support than what we alone can give them. And it starts with fostering the right connections in higher education.
Support from Professors
Professors are at the front lines. We’re there to teach, support, mentor, counsel, advise, coach and cheer. It’s what we do—and it’s a lot—but we don’t have to do it alone.
Forming alliances and collaborating with others will enhance the support you offer students as their professor. Knowing what additional support is available for our students will help you and them in the long run!
We can all start by making our classes more inclusive, customizing content and delivery and showing compassion and respect for our students. By doing so, you’ll earn their trust and aid in their success. We cannot be online 24/7, but we can consider hours outside the normal 8 – 5 to help those who work full-time or have families to take care of during the day.
Support from Fellow Students
Next, let’s look at peer support. Do you offer group discussions or team projects in your classes? Knowing students can ask their peers questions or lean on them for help is a bonus!
Using discussions as a way for students to ask questions 24/7 opens the door for them to talk to each other and get peer and instructor support at all hours of the day. Assigning peer mentors or tutors takes learning to a whole new level.
If you find a student who is doing well in class and active on discussions, consider matching them up with a student who may be struggling and need a little extra peer support. Promote collaboration by assigning a few team projects so students can learn from and support one another.
Support from Your Publisher
Gaining support from your course materials’ publisher starts with your account executive. Many have online office hours at the start of the semester to ensure students and instructors start strong.
After that, most offer tech support 24/7 via chat or phone to help your students with issues. Training sites with webinars, videos and tutorials help students get over the hump at the beginning and offer support throughout the semester.
The 14-day grace period to use publisher digital products is a lifesaver for many waiting on financial aid or their next paycheck. Services and support for digital success are extensive for both students and faculty and elevate student success.
Support from Your College/Institution
College support is the broadest. From advising and tutoring, to financial and disability, to the help desk and beyond—online and virtual services, librarians, tutors and more are often available. Connect students to resources through your syllabus and course announcements.
Although our students do not live on campus, closing our campus has cut some students off from some of the key services they may have relied on. It’s important to let students know what organizations are still operating virtually and how they can get the help and support they need. In my experience, even when the college shut down, our academic success center was still operating virtually. Our help desk was still available online for students to access tech support and we had virtual counseling services for anyone needing crisis support or emergency funds.
There is so much pressure with what to do and which options to choose that students may quit under the stress because they have no idea what steps to take. Finding someone to reassure and help them navigate the system can mean the difference between success and failure. Early alert systems embedded into our Learning Management System help identify struggling students, so student services can get in and do some triage before it is too late.
Your college may have some coaching or mentoring programs you can offer to support your students, along with clubs and activities they can get involved with—simply point the way!
Support from the Community
Connect your students to the community. Community support can help with scholarships, food, internships, mentorships and jobs. There are so many unused resources and funds you can tap into.
Bringing guest speakers to your classroom “virtually” enhances student learning and supports your teaching, as do online field trips and real-world problems to solve (your college career center could help you connect with businesses).
SOS organizations can offer tuition, clothing, technology and places to study and live. From housing to food banks to community engagement, health, education funds and fitness, the community is there to support our students.
By providing the right information and support at the right time, we’ll elevate student learning experiences and outcomes.
Additional support resources:
Looking for more information on how to support your students? Check out our Empowered Educator event covering this, culturally responsive teaching, student perspectives on online learning and more.