Key insights from 20 years of InsideTrack coaching

Power of Coaching webinar provides advice, perspective and lessons learned 

As a pioneer in using personalized, one-on-one executive-style coaching as a way to help all learners achieve their education and career goals, what lessons have we learned over the past 20 years that can help student support professionals today? That was the theme behind our recent Power of Coaching webinar, led by InsideTrack Founder and Chief Development Officer Kai Drekmeier along with four current/former InsideTrack coaches. How has the coaching methodology evolved? How has technology enabled coaches to be more proactive, more supportive and reach more learners? How does working with thousands of students every day translate into insight for higher ed partners? And what big shifts are coaches seeing with today’s students?


Digging deep, right from the start 

For Hayley Kimble, Program Director and long-time coach with InsideTrack, it’s important to ask the hard questions upfront — beginning when a prospective student is considering enrolling at your institution. “Asking questions like ‘what are your objectives for selecting this degree path’ and ‘can you picture yourself being happy on this campus’ help move the student forward, making them better prepared to succeed.”

Invaluable insight from students themselves

According to Malika Clinkscales, Associate Vice President, Partner Success, while coaching is a game-changer for thousands of students every day, the colleges and universities InsideTrack partners with also enjoy the benefit of insight. “Directly supporting students is the heart of InsideTrack. From the thousands of coaching sessions at any given institution, we begin to see patterns — systemic issues, design issues, roadblocks or barriers the school may be unaware of. This insight is passed along to the institution, helping them make changes that strengthen the experience for all learners.”

Meeting learners where they’re at

The technologies our coaches use to connect with students have come a long way in the past 20 years. Today, we use multichannel communication via a single platform to deliver our coaching. “Technology has enabled us to be more proactive and more supportive,” says Emilia Gilroy-Sander, InsideTrack Student Success Specialist & Coach. “It’s all about using the communication method that works best for each student. A conversation might start with texting, then move to the phone with regular follow-ups via email. It’s a holistic approach that lets each individual communicate in a way that’s most comfortable for them.

Strengthening equity best practices in coaching 

While the core of our research-proven coaching methodology has been consistent over the years, it’s ever evolving to best meet the needs of today’s learner. As Megan Breiseth, InsideTrack’s Senior Director, Learning & Development explains it, “In 2021’s latest optimization, we deepened our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, incorporating updated best practices under the guidance of an outside consultant. This includes individualization, situational and self-awareness, and adaptability, along with cultural competency and cultural humility.”

Big shifts and key lessons learned 

Panelists also spoke to big shifts they’ve seen as coaches over the past several years. One noted that learners are asking harder questions — wanting information on career opportunities once their program is completed. Another mentioned the fact that coaching content is being adapted for all sorts of higher ed staff members. And it’s clear to all that institutions are becoming much more vested in student wellness and well-being, particularly in the area of mental health.

When asked to share a piece of coaching advice, the panel came up with a trio of must haves.

  1. First, the ability to stay nimble. When coaching any given student, you never know where the conversation may go or what issues may arise, and being able to adapt and assist is a must.
  2. Second, ask the student questions before telling them anything or sharing information. Letting their voice be heard gives them a seat at the table.
  3. And third, listening and being present. Making someone feel heard and that they matter is something that will stick with them throughout their educational journey and beyond.

To learn more about how we’ve served 2.6 million learners and 250+ partners, explore our first-ever interactive Impact Report – filled with student story and partner outcomes videos, at-a-glance stats, and animated infographics.



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