FAQs for Faculty & Universities

Who is Instructional Connections, Inc.?

Instructional Connections, Inc. (IC) is an independent, integrated service provider of high quality instructional support services to colleges and universities that offer online courses and degree programs. Instructional Connections specializes in "connecting" Academic Coaches (also known as “Teaching Assistants” and “Instructional Associates”) to institutions that offer high growth online programs with a highly effective and scalable instructional model.

What does Instructional Connections do?

Instructional Connections provides ongoing support to university partners using Academic Coaches, Coordinating Academic Coaches, and Lead Academic Coaches. This support includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Supporting faculty in live courses.

  • Providing Academic Coach transcripts and resumes (AKA “credentials”) to universities for purposes of accreditation.

  • Providing accreditation visit support.

  • Maintain records and documents.

  • Evaluate Academic Coach Performance.

  • Provide reports as requested by each university.

  • Provide minutes of Weekly Conference Calls

  • Work in close concert with university leaders, faculty, and program administration on student-related issues.

What is an Academic Coach?

An Academic Coach is a highly qualified individual who possesses a strong educational, instructional, and leadership background, bringing value to the overall student learning experience. They help students make connections with their learning, increase depth and complexity in the discussion forum, and encourage students as they progress through the program. The exact qualifications and requirements of an Academic Coach are tailored according to individual program and course needs.  Often the Academic Coach is the student's initial point of contact, and acts in much the same fashion that a traditional teaching assistant does in an on-campus program.

How do the Academic Coach, Coordinating Academic Coach, and Lead Academic Coach function in the University’s Academic Partnership Program?

An Academic Coach focuses on enhancing students’ success and retention by minimizing student isolation and increasing and promoting opportunities for collaboration, communication, and accountability. The Academic Coaches understand the need for fostering positive, meaningful affective and professional relationships with students. Students in return feel connected to the program because they are connected to their Academic Coach. The coaches work collaboratively to reinforce the faculty’s academic goals and learning objectives.

The Coordinating Academic Coach serves as point of primary interaction with the Professor.

Some of the points of interaction:

  • Clarification of Professor's course policies

  • Coordination of multiple coaches' work

  • Check on inter-rater reliability in rubric grading

  • Review of student performance in both discussions and assessments

The Coordinating Academic Coach is responsible for insuring that interactions between Academic Coaches and the Professor occurs and for recording decisions or action items that may emerge.  Assignment of a Coordinating Academic Coach is based on the number of students and Academic Coaches in a course. The Coordinating Academic Coach reports to the Lead Academic Coach.

The Lead Academic Coach position is pivotal to the delivery of courses and serves as a "working manager."  The Lead Academic Coach most frequently interacts with the academic leadership of a program but also is available to faculty members. If there is not a designated Coordinating Academic Coach for a course, the Lead Academic Coach assumes the role and responsibilities of a Coordinating Academic Coach for that course. 

How are Academic Coaches recruited, hired, trained and assigned?

The university’s program coordinators and faculty establish the qualifications for the Academic Coaches in each course.  Based on the identified qualifications, IC posts a national Job Posting for the position; however, IC can focus regionally or within tight niche populations of applicants, depending on the needs of each program and course.

Each applicant is reviewed to match the qualifications to the program and/or course. Once an applicant is deemed a match to the program and/or course requirement, a Background Check is performed on the candidate.  Concurrently, the candidate is enrolled into “Academic Coach Training.”  The candidate commits 4-6 hours to completing the online training program over one week. Training includes introduction to the learning management system (LMS), basic principles of online education, and detailed information regarding the role and expectations of an Academic Coach. 

Upon successful competition of the training (active participation and working through all five modules), the candidate is advanced to the contracting phase.  The contract is dependent on the success of the background check and training.  Once the on-boarding phase is complete, the individual is added to the pool of screened and qualified Academic Coaches ready for an assignment.

The Lead Academic Coach reviews the qualifications of all Academic Coaches and makes recommendations to the Program Administration and/or Faculty for assignment to a course.  The Program Administrator and/or Faculty will approve or decline the candidate.  If a candidate is declined, feedback is provided to the Lead Academic Coach and IC Recruiting Staff as to the reasons for denial.

When an Academic Coach is approved for a program and/or course, the Lead and Coordinating Academic Coach guide the new Academic Coach through an orientation of the university, program and course.  In addition, the Academic Coach is enrolled into an “IC Orientation” that details the roles and responsibilities, how to navigate the LMS, and provides ongoing resources for the Academic Coach throughout the duration of the course.

What steps are taken to ensure and verify the Faculty of Record retains control of the course and program?

The Faculty of Record provides clear expectations for the Academic Coach to respond to students, grade assignments, and preferred method to communicate with faculty. This is primarily handled through a Pre-Course Conference Call in which the Academic Coaches and Faculty review the course, syllabus, assignments, and outcomes.  This is maintained throughout the course during the Weekly Conference Calls with Faculty and Academic Coach.  During the weekly calls, the Faculty and Academic Coaches discuss any student issues, upcoming assignments, changes in the course, and the Faculty expectations.

What measures does IC have in place to ensure quality services are provided?

Instructional Connection’s quality assurance program is consistent with University’s commitment to provide a high quality educational experience. Academic Coaches follow all guidance and direction from assigned faculty members. At the end of each course, IC obtains faculty feedback on the Academic Coaches assigned to the faculty’s course. In addition, Lead Academic Coaches evaluate Academic Coach activities during each course including the Academic Coach’s responsiveness to feedback. If IC is notified of a concern from either faculty or administrators about an Academic Coach’s performance, IC’s administrative personnel investigate and take action as appropriate, up to and including removal of the Academic Coach from the course and/or program.

What contingency plan does IC have to ensure that students are not impacted due to unforeseen circumstances?

Instructional Connections’ leaders have experience dealing with regional disasters and maintain contingency plans to employ in case of disasters and emergencies. If needed, IC will work with the university’s administrative and instructional leaders to assist in implementing and supporting the university’s contingency/disaster recovery plan and university policies. 

In the event an Academic Coach is unable to continue in a course, the Lead Academic Coach, Coordinating Academic Coach or other Academic Coach(s) assigned to the course will be assigned to the students previously handled by the departing Academic Coach.  In the event of a temporary inability to access the online course by an Academic Coach, the Lead Academic Coach or Coordinating Academic Coach will handle the Academic Coach’s duties until access is restored.

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