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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Mentors Wanted: Improving Online Student Success by Helping On-Site Mentors Fulfill Their Responsibilities

Jered Borup (George Mason University, USA)
Rebecca Stimson (Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute, USA)
Kathryn Kennedy (MVU, Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 12:45pm
Student Services and Learner Support
Areas of Special Interest: 
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Institutional Level: 
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Americas Seminar
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 2

On-site mentors can be critical to K-12 online student success. We will discuss current mentoring trends and models and share professional development resources.

Extended Abstract

Mentors wanted: Improving online student success by helping on-site mentors fulfill
their responsibilities

Although often ignored by researchers, K-12 online learning has grown
dramatically over the last 15 years (Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, & Rapp, 2013).
Most of these online enrollments are from students who supplement their traditional face-
to-face education with one or two online courses (iNACOL, 2012). This growth has
occurred despite pass rates that are lower than comparable face-to-face courses. Online
courses are challenging because ?students not only need to learn the subject online but
need to learn how to learn online? (Lowes & Lin, 2015, p. 18). The latter is especially
difficult for adolescent learners who tend to have low self-regulation and metacognitive
abilities that are necessary to learn in highly flexible learning environments (Cavanaugh,
2007; Moore, 2007; Rice, 2006). Online teachers who are charged with helping students
to learn the content can feel overwhelmed when they are also required to help their
students learn how to learn online (Drysdale, Graham, & Borup, 2014; in press). As a
result, programs are increasingly providing students with on-site mentors who help
students develop the skills necessary to learn online (Borup & Drysdale, 2014).

Mentors are typically not content experts and not responsible for teaching the
course content. Instead, Harms et al. (2006) identified the following mentoring
* Understand students on a personal level
* Help students to develop study, organization, and self-regulation skills
* Foster communication between students, parents, and teachers
* Monitor student academic progress
* Advise students on course enrollments
Mentors? abilities to fulfill these responsibilities can be critical to online students
successfully completing their online coursework. Unfortunately, mentors are provided
few professional development opportunities and little time to fulfill them (Hannum et al.,
2008; Lewis, 2011; Staker, 2011). Roblyer (2006) emphasized the need for professional
development because mentors ?are made, not born? (p. 34). This is supported by
research that has found online students who are provided with trained mentors are more
likely to succeed than those students who are provided with mentors who have not
received any formal training (Hannum et al., 2008; Staker, 2011).

Unfortunately, existing research provides little guidance on how to design
effective professional development for mentors (Borup & Drysdale, 2014). One
exception is Keane et al. (2008) who described a professional development program that
provided scenario-based training materials to 112 mentors who then engaged in online
discussions surrounding the provided scenarios throughout the academic year. However,
this type of professional development can be costly and not available to most mentors.

In this presentation we will share professional development materials created by
the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute (MVLRI) for mentors. More
specifically the presentation will be divided into three segments. Each segment is briefly
described below, including how we will engage participants.

Segment 1: Introduction to Mentoring

In this segment we will lead a discussion with participants on the obstacles to
increasing K-12 online course completion rates and how on-site mentors can be used in
meaningful ways to overcome the identified obstacles.

Segment 2: Identifying Mentoring Models

In this segment we will present findings from research where we explored and
identified various mentoring models in Michigan. More specifically 14 mentors in 10
schools from various geographic locations (e.g. suburban, urban, midsize town, small
town, rural) were interviewed resulting in the identification of several mentoring models
that varied in levels of structure and support. At the end of this segment, participants will
be provided an opportunity to ask questions and discuss possible implications of this

Segment 3: Mentoring Module and Materials

In this segment we will share various materials designed to help mentors
understand and fulfill their responsibilities?including an online module that contains in-
service mentors? video responses to authentic scenarios. Participants will be invited to
interact with the materials and evaluate their usefulness.


Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., & Rapp, C. (2013). Keeping pace with K-
12 online & blended learning: An annual review of policy and practice. Evergreen
Education Group. Retrieved from http://kpk12.com/cms/wp-

International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL). (2012). Fast facts about
online learning. Vienna, VA: INACOL. Retrieved from

Lowes, S., & Lin, P. (2015). Learning to learn online: Using locus of control to help
students become successful online learners. Journal of Online Learning Research,
1(1), 17?48.

Rice, K. L. (2006). A comprehensive look at distance education in the K-12 context.
Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 38(4), 425?449.

Cavanaugh, C. (2007). Student achievement in elementary and high school. In M. G.
Moore (Ed.), Handbook of distance education (2nd ed., pp. 157?168). Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Drysdale, J. S., Graham, C. R., & Borup, J. (n.d.). Teacher and student perspectives on
facilitating a sense of community through an online high school?s ?shepherding?
program. International Journal of E-Learning. Retrieved from

Drysdale, J. S., Graham, C. R., & Borup, J. (2014). An online high school ?shepherding?
program: Teacher roles and experiences mentoring online students. Journal of
Technology & Teacher Education, 22(1), 9?32.

Borup, J., & Drysdale, J. S. (2014). On-site and online facilitators: Current and future
direction for research. In R. Ferdig & K. Kennedy (Eds.), Handbook of research on
K-12 online and blended learning (pp. 325?346). ETC Press. Retrieved from

Harms, C. M., Niederhauser, D. S., Davis, N. E., Roblyer, M. D., & Gilbert, S. B. (2006).
Educating educators for virtual schooling: Communicating roles and responsibilities.
The Electronic Journal of Communication, 16(1 & 2). Retrieved from

Hannum, W. H., Irvin, M. J., Lei, P., & Farmer, T. W. (2008). Effectiveness of using
learner-centered principles on student retention in distance education courses in rural
schools. Distance Education, 29(3), 211?229. doi:10.1080/01587910802395763

Lewis, S. (2011). Local Implementation of Online High School German Courses: The
Influence of Local Support on Student Achievement. Oklahoma State Universtiy.

Staker, H. (2011). The rise of K-12 blended learning: Profiles of emerging models.
Learning. Innosight Institute. Retrieved from

Roblyer, M. D. (2006). Virtually successful: Defeating the dropout problem through
online programs. The Phi Delta Kappan, 88(1), 31?36.