In IE Blog

For many of us, it’s easy to assume that a student who is in college right now has grown up with technology right at their fingertips. The ability to use a phone or laptop whenever they like is definitely the case for many, but not for all, so it’s important we remember they may lack proficiency in usage as well. When Northern Essex Community College (NECC) moved to online modalities due to the pandemic, Amy Cameron (our chair of the Department of Academic ESL) adopted an early outreach approach in her courses. She started to do this because “it became clear that we have a very limited window. If they don’t understand Blackboard or get their textbooks in the first two weeks, it’s really hard for them to recover. They fall behind, miss work, and feel discouraged.” Despite returning to hybrid and in person classes, Amy still utilizes this approach because she noticed how much it helps her students.

One of the elements in this approach is to reach out to students two weeks before the semester starts to touch base about things like textbooks and Blackboard. Sometimes this extra nudge is all a student needs in order to be prepared for class, and other times students need much more than that, and that’s okay too.

Amy understands that everyone came out of the pandemic with different educational gaps and noticed right away that a student in her class this past semester had very little experience with technology. Even if a class is fully in person, there are technological components that a student must know how to do in order to be successful (such as uploading an assignment, ordering textbooks, or emailing their professor). In an effort to help this student who was quite overwhelmed, Amy spent time with him after class to teach him. She even walked him over to the tutoring center, so that he knew exactly where it was and made sure he got there. Amy noted “it’s painful to feel like I don’t have the capacity to give extensive one on one support to every student.” To help with this, Amy submitted an alert on this student in Navigate.

NECC’s alert system is a way for faculty to let us know if they have an academic concern about a student. These alerts get submitted to our Student Ambassadors who help them if they can but triage more advanced issues to the correct department. Amy was able to see in Navigate that another professor submitted the same alert for this student, indicating that he was struggling in both classes.

This alert was submitted to Eudania “Chucha” Aquino, one of NECC’s Student Ambassadors, who said “we need to be sensitive to people’s backgrounds. Every student is going to be different. Some are young, some have kids, and some students, like this one, have no experience with computers. We have to take time to understand where they’re coming from.” Chucha also spent time with this student after class to help him with technical issues and getting him connected to other support services on campus. With the help of Amy, Chucha, and regular appointments with academic coaching, advising, and tutoring, this student ended the semester with an A-. This shows how much working together and encouraging a student to not give up can lead to their success.

Amy and Chucha noted that aside from Navigate’s alert system being imperative to the Student Ambassador program, it has helped in many other ways. For Amy, she uses it every day for outreach to students, looking up course history, testing placement, and seeing if a student attended their service appointments. As a student, Chucha loves that it is accessible any time of the day to make appointments and stay organized.

“Some students need a lot of support and it takes a team effort but don’t ever give up on a student. It’s important to have a connection and build a relationship with a student…The Student Ambassador program provided support and connected him to the right resources on campus. It’s also helpful because it’s flexible. You can text, zoom, meet in person, or talk on the phone. Now he knows how to do college.” – Amy Cameron

“I encourage students to remember that even a pro was once a beginner. Build connections, be proactive in your learning, and don’t be afraid to speak with your professors, they’re humans too.” – Eudania “Chucha” Aquino

That’s all for now. Want to learn more? Make an appointment with me! 

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