In early March 2020, college campuses across the region made the tough decision to switch to remote learning for the rest of the spring semester to slow the spread of COVID-19. Students were thrown into a whole new world, with varied feelings of uncertainty and fear. Fast forward eight weeks or so, so many students struggled to cope and have grappled with withdrawing from classes or taking incompletes. Their educational trajectory truly affected.
For students in the new EduConnect college degree partnership with Southern New Hampshire University, there were some similar feelings of lost hope, despite the program already being completely online and access to technology not an issue. What factor has contributed to students keeping on pace during these stressful weeks? A coach from JEVS.
Karen and Jabari are the program’s two coaches. They truly have a passion for helping their students succeed. Before the pandemic outbreak, the coaches were required to reach out to their student caseloads around once a week. They had provided in-person support, but were also available to connect with students remotely to assist with assignment deadlines, navigating the online platform, and advisement.
These days, the coaches are providing a safety net in a whole different way. Sometimes Karen and Jabari are communicating with students on a daily basis, via video chat, text, phone or email. They make themselves available at practically all times; unless sleeping or assisting their own children, they usually answer a student pretty quickly.
“Because we love what we do and care for our students, we don’t mind working extended hours. Some students can’t reach out until nighttime,” said coach Karen.
Whatever it takes!
Students with a full plate, feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, are offered endless motivation and encouragement by Karen and Jabari. They are empathetic to students’ mental and emotional health. They help them through daily struggles that could inhibit their learning, and in some cases connect them with community resources. The coaches describe the program as a “holistic approach to learning.”
“I can see the lack of hope in students, they don’t believe in themselves and want to give up once they start to struggle,” said Jabari. Karen adds, “For the students who feel that an assignment is too complex to navigate or can’t fully give it their attention with everything going on, we remind them that the program’s format and curriculum is extremely forgiving; if you bomb a project, you can do it again and again until you get it right.”
Stay-at-home orders, children being homeschooled, required working for essential personnel, sick family members, and death are just some of the problems students have juggled. Their education might have to go on the back burner. But given the self-pace nature of the EduConnec program, students can choose to pause, and deal with life’s new hurdles. Without penalty. Without dropping out.
Most students had enrolled in the JEVS EduConnect program hoping to advance in their careers. Some feel “they have hit the glass ceiling” with their current job. Most had tried college before, but left due to other life commitments, not feeling “ready”, or self-reporting a lack of confidence to get their degrees. The JEVS team sees as one of their goals transforming their student’s viewpoints of him or herself as a learner—everyone has the ability to accomplish their educational dreams with the right coaching.
“No student is forgotten or given up on,” said Jabari. “Before the quarantine, we would even come to our students’ offices or workplaces to check in on them. We want our students to graduate and accomplish their goals!”
“Students have someone to count on. Before the pandemic…now…and in the future. We are their support each step of the way. Some have none, so we act as their crutch—helping them stand back on their own two feet.”
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