Students who are accepted into a degree program already have achieved something special. More than a third of adults in the United States have a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
While a degree may put students on the road to joining some elite company, the path to graduation can be fraught with obstacles. At some point, even high-achieving students run into difficulties with a course.
This can especially be the case while earning a degree online, as students don’t interact in person with their professors and fellow students. Many are used to getting through academic challenges on their own, figuring it out as they go.
But one of the important lessons in college – and in life – is that it’s OK to ask for help when you need it. That applies whether the challenge is academic or personal in nature.
No one understands better than your professors how struggles can occur during college. In some cases, it’s the coursework. In others, personal issues can get in the way of the time and attention a college class requires. In either case, faculty members can help.
On two occasions, New England College staff managed to get resources to online students several states away once they learned of personal situations (one revealed in an essay, the other mentioned in an online discussion post). NEC’s Vice President of Student Affairs, Mike Taberski, said that whether students are having personal or academic issues, “All you need to do is let us know that and we can reach out to figure out what the best course of action is to get you on the right track and keep you on the right track.”
Students earning degrees online can form virtual study groups, which can prove highly effective for both sharing information and ideas, as well as supporting one another. After all, everyone is trying to achieve the same goal.
Just as with study groups that meet in person, it’s important to assign roles to each member and set common goals for the current academic semester. It’s also important to set guidelines for what will be discussed in the virtual group, limiting “off topic” conversations and keeping everyone focused.
NEC provides a good example of how schools make resources available for online students. The college has a student support page with resources to reach out for help, including resolving any technical issues and speaking with a student services representative.
The college also has an Office of Career and Life Planning that works with students to develop a plan for life after they graduate that is consistent with their interests, values and skills. The Career and Life Planning office also helps connect students with opportunities for expanding their skills and experiences, such as studying abroad, internships, service activities and working with industry professionals.
Student Services Representatives
Students also can connect with their student services representative. NEC graduate Nancy Werner remembered the support she received from both faculty and her student services representative while she was undergoing cancer treatments. Werner said her student services representative even called her regularly to check up on how she was doing. Werner said she was never pushed to come back, just asked about her health.
The calls from the student services representative were “beyond the call of duty,” she said. Werner eventually returned to school to complete her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration/Management in 2016.
Student services representatives also help keep students on task. Nathan Parsons, who graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration, said his student services representative, Kimberly Williams, called and emailed him regularly. She also helped sign him up for classes and keep track of his financial paperwork.
Clearly, help is available for students who are struggling in online classes. The key is to know that’s it OK to ask for help and to not hesitate when it is needed.