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The rise of blended learning coaches

The blended learning movement has led to a unique role for some educators—that of a coach

blended-coachWhile not necessarily commonplace , blended learning–any instance in which a student learns in both a brick-and-mortar school and through an online delivery platform–is growing in popularity in districts across the nation, due in part to its cost savings potential and its ability to let students personalize their learning.

In the face of increased blended learning opportunities, a new role has emerged for some educators: that of the blended learning “coach,” or “success coach,” whose job is to provide support and guidance to students, acting as a mentor, a counselor, and more.

“One of the secret sauces that really makes [blended learning] work is a success coach,” said Mickey Revenaugh, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Connections Learning, during a webinar to highlight success coaches’ practices.

(Next page: How a blended learning success coach operates)

“Education is all about balance,” said Alex Lown, a success coach with the Nexus Academy of Lansing (Mich.). Nexus Academy, part of Connections Education, is a blended learning high school with locations in Michigan, Indianapolis, and Ohio. Students spend part of the day on a Nexus campus and take courses and study at home during the other part of their day.

“Education cannot be stagnant—it must adapt. I’m everything a student might need to be successful in education,” he said.

During a typical day, Lown spends 40 minutes in an advisory period before shifting into full success coach mode. His role as a success coach might involve direct assistance or tutoring, helping students plan learning strategies or identify problems and solutions, or facilitate communication with face-to-face or virtual instructors.

It works, in part, because a success coach is not responsible for teaching content matter or planning lessons.

“[There is] one educator whose sole role and responsibility is ensuring students learn in a positive, supportive, safe, and collaborative environment. My focus is on what the student needs to be successful,” Lown said.

Data plays a large role in Lown’s coaching.

“I spend a lot of time looking at the data,” he said. “One of the benefits of having online curriculum delivery is that you can go back and look at everything you need. I’m constantly checking students’ gradebooks, but I might need to look a little deeper to see when a student is logging in, how many lessons they accessed in a day, and how much time they’re putting into their lessons. That all comes together and lets me look individually at each student to see if it matches what they’re telling me.”

Students at Carpe Diem Collegiate High School and Middle School (CDCHS) in Yuma, Ariz., work with learning coaches who track students’ progress using data.

The online content provider system, Edgenuity, alerts a learning coach if a student struggles with a concept for more than three minutes.

During online instruction periods, students have access to assistant coaches who, while not necessarily teachers, are highly qualified to help students with challenges they might encounter, according to an Innosight Institute report.

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Laura Ascione

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