Over the past six months, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a mentor for Patrick Coyle as he wrote his way through an online English credit recovery course. Patrick is an intelligent young man who loves fishing, hunting and working on engines. We studied together once or twice a week to help hone his English skills as he worked on his class. Patrick had a study hall set aside for his course, but was also willing to meet me after school to work on specific areas he was struggling to understand.
Jamie is Patrick’s mother and she is rightfully proud of her son and his accomplishments. I got to know them both over the time that I spent at Andover and enjoyed that time immensely. I sat down with Jamie and Patrick at our last tutoring session to find out how they felt about Patrick’s online experience. I wanted to know how Patrick felt as a student taking an online course and how Jamie felt as a parent of a student taking the course. Patrick said, “It was pretty straight forward, not very difficult. It was a lot easier for me to work on my own than it was to sit in a classroom. I’m easily distracted.” He laughed a little then.
“Thinking back, how did you feel about the program going into it?” I asked.
“I wasn’t really sure. I was kind of nervous because I hadn’t really done an online class before. I don’t know. I knew I was going to need help because I usually tend to get off track. I just wasn’t sure about it at first.”
Jamie said almost the same thing when I asked her how she felt as a parent, “I wasn’t sure, going into it. I didn’t know what all it involved.” But as the course progressed and she saw how it worked, she began to really like it. She said, “Well, what I really liked was him being able to do the work here in the computer lab. It was such a help. The biggest benefit for me was being able to do the online part here.”
Patrick said it was beneficial to him for a different reason. He said, “It gave me an opportunity to work on it by myself. Whenever I could work on it, I could go and work on it. It was a lot easier for me to sit at a computer to do it than to sit in a classroom and do it.” He would also recommend it to other students who have a similar learning style – students who are self-motivated, able to push themselves, prefer working at their own pace and are willing to ask for help, if needed.
I then asked them both how they felt about feedback they received from their online teachers and coordinators. Patrick said, “My feedback from my teacher, she always gave me feedback. It would take a day or two, but she always gave me good feedback on what I wrote about. And you always gave me good feedback when we were working and it was always a great help to have you here and help me through this.”
Jamie said, “Yes, I mean with the emails saying this is how he did, he needs to work on this, he needs to add more to this, and you know, with somebody correcting it and then saying, you did well, but it could be better if you do these things, and then he could take that and then add more and take their constructive criticism and build on that to make it a better paper.”
Finally, I asked them whether they would recommend online classes to other students, teachers, and administration and I received a big and wonderful yes. In Jamie’s words, “I would. Actually, administration, the superintendent who is no longer here – he retired last year, he actually suggested it to us because Patrick got hired by BOCES last year to work during the summer and he was so excited about that, so he couldn’t go to summer school and work at BOCES, so the superintendant actually told us about this program. I had no idea. Yes, I would recommend it, especially for someone who has plans for the summer, whether it be a job or traveling or whatever. It worked out great.”
Then Jamie went on to say that the program was very beneficial for Patrick, “I’ve told you that with Patrick getting constructive criticism from you, it meant so much more to him than coming from mom. In the way that you presented it to him, saying, you did good with this, but we need to work on this and here are some suggestions, now you go do it and you take the suggestions and do what you think you need to do. I could see, and my mother-in-law mentioned that she could see, such a difference in Patrick with his self esteem, saying, you know, I can do this. He just has a whole different attitude.”
And that is what online learning opportunities are about – helping students feel successful and achieve their goals.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES