4 High Impact Student Support Services to Offer in your Online Learning Program

August 3, 2022

It’s no secret - online learning has revolutionized education. 

Not only has it improved traditional education, it’s also made all kinds of learning more accessible - professional development, reskilling, upskilling, career transition, bootcamps, extracurricular programming and more. 

Of course, online learning programs have come with their own set of challenges. When it’s all too easy for students to close their laptops and disappear, how can you make sure students are truly engaging and retaining course material? How can you ensure they stick around and cross the finish line? 

Luckily, there are student support services that online learning programs can provide to help keep students on track and account for unexpected bumps in the road. 

These student support services can have an impact on some of the most important metrics for online learning programs, such as completion rates, student satisfaction, referrals, and NPS. 

That’s because when students feel supported, their overall satisfaction with a program tends to increase, no matter how well they may have actually performed in the program or what their post-program outcome ended up being. 

Read on to learn about 4 of highest impact student support services you can offer in your online learning program and how to go about implementing them. 

Already have a student success team? Learn how to streamline your student success workflow here.  

Essential Student Support Services 

Office Hours 

For struggling students, asking questions during class in front of all their peers can be daunting. This is especially true if they’re behind on readings or coursework. In these situations, some students find it easier to not speak up and continue to fall behind. 

Office hours provide a space for students to connect with instructors in 1:1 or small group settings. Asking questions in office hours environments is far less daunting than asking in class, and it gives instructors the opportunity to evaluate any additional resources or next steps that might best suit that student’s needs. 

While asking instructors to spend additional hours “in the classroom” and coordinating schedules can be challenging, you can make sure no time is wasted by asking students to anonymously sign up ahead of time or pre-submit questions. 

Mentor Support

Similar to office hours, mentor sessions can provide struggling learners with one on one attention to help get them back on track. What’s more, mentors can often be less intimidating than the instructors themselves. 

Whether your mentors are professional coaches, program alumni, or peer leaders, they can provide essential support for students not just regarding course material, but also the emotional/motivational support that is so often needed when overcoming challenges involved in online learning programs.

Check-ins for At-Risk Students

Sometimes students just need a nudge to get back on track - a simple email or direct message making sure they’re okay and asking what they need. Knowing that they’re more than just a number and that their learning program actually cares about their progress can sometimes be enough to push struggling students through a slump and over the finish line. 

The best way to implement this is by keeping track of student data - attendance, community platform engagement, coursework. From there, you can establish risk criteria (i.e. student missed 3 classes) and reach out to any students that meet those criteria via email, direct message, or even by phone.

While this can be (and is often) done manually, there are ways to automate this process. The Virtually Student Relationship Manager (SRM) allows you to establish your desired risk criteria based on your student data and auto-message flagged students. Once students respond, someone from your student success team can pick up the conversation and make sure students get the support they need - whether that’s clear next steps, extra materials, explaining complicated concepts, etc. 

Learn how the best online schools use active intervention to reduce drop-out rates and boost student engagement here

Flexibility & Deferrals

Sometimes it’s just not the right time for students to complete your online learning program. Life happens and things come up.  

When students know their program is flexible and open to allowing deferrals, they’re more likely to speak up and share what’s really happening in their lives and why they’ve fallen behind. Not only does this give the student a second chance to complete your program when it makes more sense for them, it also saves your team time and resources chasing after learners that have gone silent or aren't engaging. 

At the end of the day, student support services are about understanding student needs and helping students feel seen. When students are empowered to ask questions, ask for help, or restructure their program participation, they’re able to take charge of their learning and are often more satisfied with their overall experience in your program. 

Interested in how the Virtually Student Relationship Manager (SRM) can help supercharge your student support services? 

Schedule a demo here to learn how the SRM can automate your student data collection and aggregation, flag at risk students, and automatically reach out to those students to check in and offer support. 

Read Next: What is a Student Relationship Manager and Why Do You Need One? 

Laura Marks

Laura Marks is Head of Customer Experience at Virtually