While staff at many online schools see kickoff calls as a simple way to make sure new students can log in to their accounts, great educators and advisors understand that they’re most successful when you treat new students, especially adult learners, just like meeting your partner’s parents for the very first time.
You certainly want to be seen as helpful, but you also want to build rapport and become a resource that people can come back to. And the best way to do that during kickoff calls is to ask detailed questions that encourage students to provide deep responses.
Onboarding new students to your program should never be seen as yet another administrative task you have to complete. Rather, you should see it as an opportunity to build trust and position yourself as an advisor. Because no matter what your current role is—whether it be as a Program Operator, Student Success Advisor, or an Instructor—relationship building will be a big part of how you can help your students be successful.
So, what is it about including detailed questions in your kickoff calls that help these relationships form?
It’s simple really. People like to feel heard.
When you take notes during your kickoff calls and repeat personal details back to them at a later date, not only do they feel heard, but they also feel valued. And having this type of relationship between you and students gives them a sense of psychological safety—leading to mutual trust.
To make the process easier for you, we’ve put together the 7 essential questions you should ask new learners during your next kickoff call:
1. Do You Have Access to Everything You Need In Order To Be Successful?
This is the first question you should always ask new students. Use this time to verify that they have access to everything they need in order to be successful in your program.
For example, are they comfortable using the learning management system and video-conferencing platform that will be used in this program? Have they set up their usernames and passwords? Can they log into everything without experiencing any issues?
While this question is definitely more administrative in nature, it helps you break the ice with students while providing help to them at the same time.
2. How Will This Course Fit Into Your Schedule?
Obtaining this information is an important step in providing the right support to your students at exactly the right time. Modern learners nowadays do not fit into the traditional, full-time student mold and instead are often working adults that have many responsibilities outside of their coursework. It’s important to understand these unique circumstances and distinguish which students need support during off-hours.
For example, you may find you have learners in one of three categories: early birds, night owls, and weekend warriors. Once you know which category your student falls into, be sure to write this information down and keep track of it.
Knowing when each learner has the most availability informs you of the best time to reach out to them, whether it’s simply to check-in, to answer any questions they may have, or to help them find assistance as needed.
3. Do You Prefer More of a Push or a Pull Experience?
While you may need to clarify this question a bit for some students, what you’re really asking here is how much support they need from you on a regular basis.
For example, do they need you to push them so that they meet all of their deadlines? Or, would they prefer to pull back a bit and work on their own until they actually need help with something specific?
Just keep in mind that students’ stated preferences now may be different than the revealed preferences you discover down the road. So, be sure to keep your records updated so that you can continue to provide the right support.
4. What are Your Favorite Modes of Communication?
Finding out each student’s favorite mode of communication is your best bet to reach them when you need to. No one wants to waste time calling someone and never hearing back—especially when emailing them always results in a quick response.
Be sure to offer plenty of options for students to choose from such as calling, texting, or emailing as well as using apps like Slack, Discord, and WhatsApp.
5. What Are Your Motivations for Completing this Program?
This question is geared toward helping you discover why students have chosen to enroll in your program. Knowing this information is critical because you may need to bring it back up later when the going gets tough.
Plus, knowing personal details about students’ lives can help you pair them up with other students with like interests and motivations. After all, research shows that being part of an affinity group in school leads to higher rates of student success as tapping into your social capital increases your chances of reaching your highest potential.
You really want them to go deep with their answers here too.
For example, if they say they enrolled in your program to make more money, you want to get down to the root of why they want to make more money. Is it because they want to take their kids on more vacations?
If a student is struggling to be vulnerable while answering this question, being vulnerable yourself and sharing your own story first can really help them open up.
6. Would You Describe Yourself as More of a Traditional Student or Someone Who Likes to Learn on Their Own?
This question will help you assess whether or not a particular student learns best when taught directly by an instructor or if they’re mainly an autodidact—a self-taught person.
Autodidacts tend to be really successful both in and out of the classroom because they seek out knowledge on their own and are continuously learning throughout their lifetimes. So even if they may appear less engaged during live lectures or in peer communities, more often than not, they are actually learning in class and may even be supplementing the learning experience by finding additional resources on their own.
Noting this on a student’s file helps you remember that there’s no cause for alarm when autodidacts exhibit a lower level of engagement. Just make sure lower engagement doesn’t lead to a reduction in understanding. Identifying students who are struggling is one of the reasons we are building the Ribbon At-Risk Tracker.
7. What is Your Comfort Level When You Don’t Know Something?
Lastly, determining one’s comfort level when they don’t know something will help you understand how that person will behave when called on in class, how much support they need from instructors, and the level of scaffolding they will require when learning something new.
All of this is important information because you naturally want to provide assistance to students who need it most.