I’m An IOAPA Mentor…Now What?

The Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA) allows Iowa students to take AP classes online.  IOAPA is especially meant for rural schools that do not have the resources to provide AP classes.  Educators can learn more at www.belinblank.org/ioapa

IOAPA: Mentoring Students Enrolled in Online Courses

Mentors for online APTM courses through Apex Learning help high school students make the most out of these challenging educational experiences. In approaching a mentoring role, you may ask yourself: What can I do to best support my students?

Mentor Responsibilities

Mentors are expected to meet daily with students, review student progress, and proctor exams. They provide frequent encouragement and assist students in learning content. Although mentors can connect students with content experts when students need instructional assistance, it is most beneficial to the student if the mentor teaches in the content area of the student’s course (e.g., a student enrolled in an APTM Calculus course is best supported by a mentor who teaches math at the student’s high school).

Encourage Communication between Students and Instructors

Students in online courses value interactions with their instructors. Yet students who rarely speak with their instructors may become frustrated or disillusioned with distance learning. When direct contact between instructor and students falls to the wayside in online courses, mentors foster this line of communication. For example, mentors may suggest that students check in with instructors on a biweekly basis or to reach out for help in tackling difficult content. Mentors may also collaborate with instructors to design activities fitted to specific students.

Supplement Coursework with Experiences that Engage Students
Good mentors enrich students’ distance learning by creating additional learning opportunities online or in the classroom. This can be accomplished by structuring student discussions to be as educationally meaningful as possible. Specifically, mentors can provide engaging questions, model appropriate contributions, focus discussions, and respectfully challenge student ideas.  Another way mentors can boost student learning is by encouraging students to enroll in content-related experiences at the Belin-Blank Center.

Be Aware of Student Stress

Most importantly, good mentors build strong relationships with their students. Many high school students who take AP TM courses struggle with heavy workloads, anxiety, and fatigue. Mentors should monitor the psychological needs of their students and recommend ways students can cope with stress or manage their time more efficiently. Mentors who take the time to get to know their students may alleviate student stress and motivate them to challenge themselves in AP TM courses and beyond.

Selected Resources

Borup, J., Graham, C. R., & Davies, R. S. (2012). The nature of adolescent learner interaction in a virtual high school setting. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29, 153-167.

Garrison, D. R., & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2005). Facilitating cognitive presence in online learning: Interaction is not enough. The American Journal of Distance Education, 19, 133-148.

Lee, Y., & Choi, J. (2011). A review of online course dropout research: Implications for practice and future research. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59, 593-618.

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