At CW, we think success coaching is key to helping students attain their goals and realize their potential.

Robert Weston, an Online Success Coach and Instructional Designer at CW, was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on success coaching and the role of the success coach in today’s educational landscape.

Q: First off, for those who may not be aware, what is a success coach? 

The short answer: An Online Success Coach acts as a sounding board for ideas, a mine of experiences, and a warning bell for when there’s trouble.

The long answer: An Online Success Coach develops relationships with students to help support their academic career at The College of Westchester. I’ve found myself listening to the small complaints, concerns, and suggestions that students may not feel comfortable sharing with their professors. However, it’s these small things that usually indicate larger barriers to their success. By having these conversations with students, and identifying those barriers, I’ve been able to offer advice, and academic strategies to help students do better in their classes. When my advice seems inadequate I contact other student support staff and try to get students the help, and resources they need to succeed.

Q: What do you see as the role and importance of the success coach?

I have a mental model of how I view the sites, and tools online students use. Moodle is the classroom. CampusCruiser is the administration building. Campust ToolKit is the counseling offices. RemoteProctor is the testing center. Online Success Coaches act as the professor you don’t have a class with, but talk to quite a bit in the halls. They don’t grade you, they don’t evaluate your performance, but they’re ready to help you regardless. They may teach you the soft skills a classroom may not address, identify areas you think you have under control, but don’t, or even share their own stories of how hard it was for them to do well in their classes. They’re both role models, and advocates.

Q: Can you share a personal story about a student you have helped or a situation that illustrates what you think the role of a success coach is?

As part of our weekly check-in, a student briefly mentioned how hard it was to keep everything organized. I asked them if they had a calendar, a day planner, or some other time management tool. They said they didn’t. However, I knew they had a Google account for their personal email. So, while on the phone, I helped her navigate to the Google Calendar site. I shared with her that I use the site to organize social events, coordinate trips, and while I was in grad school, dictate my life.

This is one of those cases where a brief conversation, evolved into identifying a barrier, and offering a suggestion that improves a student’s chances of succeeding at The College of Westchester.

Q: What are some of the things you troubleshoot most often?

Most of them are technical in nature, and usually deal with some issue they’re having in Moodle. Most aren’t too bad, but a few do bring up issues that indicate bigger problems. As an Instructional Designer it’s been really helpful having ‘face-to-face’ time with our end users so that I can hear about the issues they’re having, and implement solutions quickly.

Q: What are some common questions you receive?

The majority of the questions I get are academic in nature, ‘Why did I do so bad on this quiz?’, ‘When is my next quiz?’, etc. I refer most of those questions to professors, given that I have no real say in their academic standing.

Q: Any other relevant information you wish to share?

I’ve found that my two roles (Online Success Coach, and Instructional Designer) have been a combination that is greater than its parts. By being an Online Success Coach I get a student perspective of our classes, and where they’re having the most success, and difficulty in each course. In my Instructional Designer role I help construct, build, and support the courses themselves. In each case, I take the information I gather in the other, and apply it directly, helping students do well in their courses, and building better courses for students to take.