Student enrollment in online courses continues to surge. A November 2018 report from the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics found that the number of students who took at least one online course jumped 5.7 percent in one year.

More than eight in 10 students at the University of Central Florida (UCF) take at least one online or blended course, with a growing part of the student population taking all their courses online. Three years ago, to provide skilled support to and designated resources for online learners, the school launched its UCF Online Connect Center.

Helping online learners succeed

The Connect Center currently has seven prospective student specialists, six enrollment coaches, and 11 success coaches who work with more than 4,500 UCF Online students. “The goal of the Center is to develop a relationship with our online learners that provides them with a comprehensive overview or connection to the university through the use of success coaches,” says Jeff Jones, vice provost of UCF Connect and UCF Global.

How to (almost) guarantee success in higher ed online learning

Building relationships instead of simply facilitating transactions is a key component, he says. Typically, a success coach begins by finding out about the student, especially the reason they want to be in school. The coach records results with a customer relationship tool.

Coaches and students work together to set up a personalized communication schedule and then stay in touch throughout the semester by phone and email. Besides offering support, coaches will remind students of upcoming deadlines, such as next-semester enrollment dates. As the student progresses, the success coach becomes the single contact for the student to discuss any problems and, if need be, come up with solutions to manage those challenges.

About the Author:

Robert Lerose is a New York-based freelance writer. He received the APEX Grand Award and seven Awards For Publication Excellence for his journalism. He was the 2004 winner of the Great American Think-Off, a philosophy competition open to the public.


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