I have tremendous respect for the innovative technologies and dedicated educators who tirelessly work to help their students achieve their educational goals. Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Julie Delich, who will share her insights on supporting virtual students. Julie will discuss practical steps that instructors and staff can implement, and she’ll also highlight important considerations for using emerging technologies, such as AI, in the classroom. Thank you, Julie, for these valuable ideas and strategies to help distance education students succeed!

Enjoy the read,

Lindsey Downs, WCET

While distance learning offers unique opportunities for institutions and students alike, it also presents challenges that require strategic solutions to ensure student wellness and success. As educators, we must harness emerging technologies to provide scalable, 24/7 support systems for our students.

By leveraging emerging technologies like AI, we can effectively guide students to create a culture of help-seeking behaviors and systems that support students staying on track throughout their educational journey.

Looking Ahead with Practical Steps

To address the multifaceted needs of students in distance learning, institutions can adopt several practical strategies:

  1. Increase the Capacity of Advising Staff – Balancing the student-to-advisor ratio ensures that students receive the personalized attention they need, and technology offers a path to increased advisor capacity.
  2. Offer Online Counseling – Providing accessible online counseling services allows students to seek help regardless of their location.
  3. Leverage Emerging Technology – Utilizing AI for conversations through chat or text can significantly enhance the students’ sense of connection to the institution.

Considerations For Emerging Tech

When integrating emerging technologies into student support frameworks, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Focus on the conversation, not just the tech. Tools should connect humans and accelerate conversations, not deflect them. For example, texting students can provide institutional leaders with rapid insights into student sentiment and well-being, covering areas like belonging, self-efficacy, and engagement.
  • Use Informal Insights to Constantly Improve. Continuous feedback mechanisms should be in place to capture informal insights from students. This enables institutions to make informed decisions and respond to emerging needs.
  • Build Systems for Crisis Intervention. Integrate systems that can identify and respond to crises promptly, ensuring students receive immediate support during critical times.

Ideas for AI Supported Student Support

Effective Text Nudging

Effective nudging involves building trust and fostering relationships between students and AI tools. Here are key strategies:

  • Establish trust to enable a relationship with AI. Establishing a parasocial relationship where students feel comfortable and trusting towards AI can enhance engagement.
  • Proactivity. Proactive outreach helps prevent issues before they arise, guiding students to take necessary actions in advance. Students don’t know what they don’t know.
  • Teach Emotional Literacy. Educating them on emotional literacy allows them to recognize situations where seeking help is beneficial. This includes teaching them to label and manage their emotions effectively.

Human Centered, AI Enhanced Coaching

Some institutions have begun embedding emotional intelligence into their proactive outreach.

For instance, research from The Partnership for Education Advancement, Norfolk State University, The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and Mainstay demonstrates that “how you say it matters.”

This highlights the importance of using emotionally intelligent and culturally relevant language in increasing student engagement. This approach led to over 7,000 additional students actively engaging with AI coaching.

AI technology solutions like Mainstay offer AI success coaching and pulse checks, guiding students and understanding their evolving needs to help them persist throughout the student lifecycle. By integrating human centered design with AI capabilities, these tools create a supportive and responsive educational environment.

Julie Delich

Vice President, Product Strategy, Mainstay


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