In the cinderblock classroom, teachers know that parents, administrators, instructors, and the students themselves have a vested interest in a child’s education; in the online environment, these are all stakeholders, and each play a role in supporting students in the virtual classroom. The instructor’s role is to communicate consistently, to respond to emails in a timely manner, and to address concerns and questions, and all communication is professional and follows school, state, and federal policies. The student’s role is to help maintain consistent communication by asking questions, making specific inquires, upholding the policies, attending synchronous events, and responding in a timely manner to emails and discussion board posts. Since our students should be good digital citizens, these responses will naturally be polite and professional. The administrator’s role is to support both the student and the teacher in these endeavors. These roles don’t change much when the cinderblock classroom goes digital. The parent’s role, however, changes significantly.
Parents whose students take digital classes must be more like coaches and advisors in the absence of a physical classroom or the daily presence of a teacher. Parents may need to review student goals and grades more frequently, and advocate for their child if the course material is too confusing. Furthermore, the parents may need to be more supportive and encouraging since a virtual class may seem isolating at times if the student does not routinely connect with his/her classmates. An effective virtual class will offer many tools to help parents in this role, such as frequent updates, announcements, newsletters, and opportunities to submit feedback. Together the teacher and parent will support the student’s success.
The virtual class might also have additional stakeholders to consider, such as the LMS’s platform company and the coaches and community leaders in the student’s life. Since virtual classrooms are expanding and LMS software is improving, the LMS company has a stake in the class’s and students’ success. If students succeed using the LMS platform, the company looks good to its shareholders and to other institutions. Also, if the child is active in sports and the community, those leaders become stakeholders; both need to be aware of time commitments and scheduled synchronous events and make allowances accordingly.
When I imagine what a student’s online learning experience, I see a teen sitting in a dark bedroom lit by the computer’s soft blue glow. The student is alone. The door is shut. The mother may knock at the door bringing a PB&J. However prevalent that image is, it’s inaccurate. Schools, teachers, administrators, and parents are all key stakeholders who can best support students through open, frequent communication.