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Online Learning Coaches Offer Valuable Resource to Students

October 2022
  • Online Learning Coaches (l to r) Tricia LaFountaine and Ashley Bregman
    Online Learning Coaches (l to r) Tricia LaFountaine and Ashley Bregman

Whether students are taking classes fully online, hybrid, or in person, navigating the online aspects of a course can sometimes be overwhelming.  This is why QCC developed online learning coaches - to assist students in successfully maneuvering an online learning environment.

The coaches offer assistance with Qmail, The Q, Zoom, Blackboard, Collaborate and any other online course materials, and are available through email (OnlineCourseHelp [at] or phone (508.854.7455). Online learning coaches also can attend a faculty member's class in person or via Zoom to give a presentation on what services they offer.

This model grew out of the Online Liaison service, which was developed in 2012 by Academic Technology Facilitator and Professor of English Amy Beaudry and Dean of the School of Healthcare (then Acting Assistant of Academic Affairs) Pat Schmohl. The pilot started off supporting a few online classes and as it continually proved itself useful, especially when Covid-19 hit, it grew into the robust service it is today that supports students and faculty in all course modalities.

Professor of Biology and Chemistry Ashley Bregman and Professor of English, Developmental English, and Psychology Tricia LaFountaine are currently serving as the online learning coaches. As professors themselves, they know firsthand that while faculty take time to cover the basics of online learning at the beginning of the semester, it's often not enough for some students.

"Students get so much information that first week. We recommend that faculty add the online learning coach contact information to their syllabus and Blackboard," said LaFountaine, adding, "It feels good to alleviate the stress of a student and help them with all these overwhelming details." 

"Students should spend their time figuring out the content of a course, not how to get to the content," Bregman said.

The coaches also log all of their student interactions to analyze recurring problems so that they can be proactive in addressing online concerns or roadblocks. Online learning coaches attend faculty technology conferences, summer summits, and department meetings to inform faculty, staff, and students on how to get ahead of common issues. While the coaches have reported a decrease in problems accessing The Q, currently some of the biggest difficulties are digital access codes for textbooks and navigating Blackboard. Many students also aren't aware that they get Microsoft 365 for free.

Online learning coaches make sure to monitor Starfish during the first weeks of a semester to look for students who haven't logged in during that critical period. Faculty members can also alert the coaches to students they identify as struggling with the technology of a course.

Executive Director of Distance\Online Learning and CAE Brooks Winchell noted that the coaches' response time is quick, often assisting students in real-time or within 24 hours. 

"The online learning coaches have helped us to close technology gaps and allow everyone to be able to access course content and materials. Their work is vital now, and I see it remaining a core part of academic technology support moving forward as digital literacy skills become more essential in education and in the workplace," Winchell said.