Mentors Matter When Learning Online: The Circuits Difference at GA


Online Mentorship Image

The online education space is growing fast. But how do you deliver a high-quality, engaging experience online? As we have built our five Circuit courses — HTML, CSS & Web DesignJavaScript DevelopmentData Analysis, User Experience Design, and Digital Marketing — we believe the answer is simple: a dedicated mentor to hold you accountable through every stage of your learning.

When we put together our first Web Design Circuit in July 2014, we made a conscious choice to build in the sense of community and personalization that an instructor provides. This experience is a key part of General Assembly’s classroom programs.

Online Classroom Discussion Can Be Chaotic

In an online context, it’s easy for folks to drop out, not show up, or fall out of the experience. Debate or points of uncertainty can lead to confusion, even alienation. A dedicated mentor complements the online content and discussion, adapting to student practices, expectations and real-time dynamics that are unique to each class.

“Having a mentor takes away the uncertainty,” according to Joe Bliss, one of the mentors on our Web Design Circuit.

“The internet is old; development tools, coding standards, and best practices have evolved over time. Being able to meet one on one with a subject matter expert takes the guesswork out of online learning.”

Mentors Keep Students Accountable

Whether you’re trying to change a habit or learn a new skill, having someone or something to keep you accountable is key. This is especially true in online classes, where attrition rates can be high.

Circuits students receive consistent support via weekly video chats with a mentor.

“I trusted Joe and his advice because of his personal experience,” said Kali Swenson, a writer based in Seattle who built a photography portfolio site for her final course project.

“He wasn’t speaking on a strictly theoretical level, but from real web design experience. Plus, I felt more accountable for my work because it didn’t just exist in an online vacuum — there was someone I had to share it with.”

A Personal Touch

It’s this personal support that separates Circuits from other online educators. In their first one-on-one session with a mentor, students discuss and set personal goals to focus and channel the enthusiasm they bring into the program, to ensure they remain on track, their goals are realistic, and their expectations are met by the end of the course.

Mentors are then able to make personalized recommendations for each student based on existing skills, goals, and schedule. And it’s working: With more than 4,400 Circuits graduates so far, 95% of students who completed our end-of-course survey agree that their mentor helps them make meaningful progress in the course.

“So much of the learning comes from sitting down to code, and being able to vet that learning with someone throughout the process helped solidify many concepts in my mind,” said Swenson.

Circuits mentors are highly responsive to student needs and are set up to provide feedback to student questions within 24 hours.

“When I fell a little behind, my mentor didn’t seem worried, so I stopped worrying about it and just got the work done,” said Swenson. “He also paid attention to my personal design and code interests, connecting me to resources particular to my needs.

“It felt like someone had my back and wanted me to complete my website as much as I did, and that compelled me to do better work.”

Learn web design online while getting feedback from your peers and mentor.

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