Personalized Mentor Support at Core of WGU Texas' Innovative Learning Model
At competency-based online university, faculty members serve as full-time mentors whose sole responsibility is facilitating student learning and success
AUSTIN, Texas, Jan. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the country recognizes the value of mentorship during National Mentoring Month this January, online WGU Texas http://texas.wgu.edu celebrates the contributions of the mentors who work all year to ensure the success of our students.
WGU Texas is a competency-based university, where bachelor's and master's degrees are earned by nontraditional students—often busy, working adults—studying independently to master defined competencies at their pace in the learning style that works best for them. The faster a student can learn the required material and prove that knowledge, the faster he or she accelerates through the degree program. In this nontraditional setting, the availability of one-on-one academic and personal support on an as-needed basis is critical, so the role of faculty has been redefined, with mentorship at its core.
WGU Texas employs faculty in two distinct mentor roles—Student Mentors and Course Mentors. These faculty members focus solely on supporting students' academic success. Other faculty functions, such as curriculum development, grading and assessment, and degree program management, are assigned to other members of WGU Texas' faculty, each specializing in a specific function. This allows mentors to devote their full attention to students.
Student Mentors: For each student, the primary faculty support is a personally assigned Student Mentor. The role of the Student Mentor is to provide advice, coaching, and support from the moment an individual becomes a student to the time he or she graduates. Student mentors hold advanced degrees in business, education, information technology, or health professions. They support students in the following ways:
- Provide information on programs, policies, and procedures.
- Assess students' strengths and help them develop a plan of study.
- Provide feedback on assessments and recommend learning resources.
- Help students to sustain motivation and maintain on-time progress to their degrees.
- Recommend appropriate student services.
This support involves regularly scheduled academic progress conversations weekly and active involvement in other aspects of the student's academic career. The Student Mentor has on overall knowledge of degree program requirements and guides the student through the program, offering coaching, direction, and practical advice.
Course Mentors: Course Mentors are subject-matter experts who support students as they engage specific sections of the WGU Texas curriculum. Their experience and training is specific to the courses they support, and most have completed terminal degrees in their fields. They can address any issue that might arise related to a course, a learning resource, or an assessment. Specifically, Course Mentors:
- Bring WGU Texas courses of study to life with students via one-to-many or one-to-one forums.
- Provide instructional help (proactively and reactively) and facilitate learning.
- Provide content expertise for students who are struggling with course material.
The type and intensity of instructional support varies based upon the needs of each student in a particular course, from help with specific questions that arise to more fully-engaged tutorial support.
Kimberly Castle, a Student Mentor in the IT College, applauds the personalized, competency-based model. "This prevents students who can accelerate from being held back. It also allows students who need additional time on certain subjects the opportunity to modify their time to spend the extra time on needed subjects," she said. "It is a program that's truly in place for experienced working adults."
Castle said she gets satisfaction from her students' success. "What I like most about being a Student Mentor is experiencing the satisfaction the student has once they have completed the program," she said. "Their sense of accomplishment also feels like I've accomplished a major goal. This job allows for a lot of self satisfaction through helping others succeed and create better lives for themselves."
WGU Texas Chancellor Mark David Milliron is a strong proponent of the mentor-guided model employed by the online university. "Used well, technology in education can be used to make the human moments precious—and more personal," he said. "Our mentors build meaningful relationships that support our students along their diverse paths to graduation."
About WGU Texas
WGU Texas is a competency-based, online university created to expand access to quality higher education for Texas residents. The university offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the high-demand career fields of business, health professions (including nursing), information technology, and K-12 teacher education.
Established through a partnership with nationally recognized and accredited Western Governors University, WGU Texas is open to all qualified Texas residents. Degrees are granted under the accreditation of Western Governors University, which is regionally accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) in addition to programmatic accreditation.
SOURCE WGU Texas