Reaching Parents In a Pandemic

April 6, 2021

Written by: Christine Denecker, University of Findlay; OADEP President

Those of us who work in the field of dual and concurrent enrollment (DE/CE), know that communication is a vital component of successful partnerships. Students, high school counselors, CE instructors, DE coordinators, college advisors, faculty liaisons, and DE teachers all need answers to questions as well as ongoing information and support to ensure that learners have positive college-in-high-school experiences. Parents and guardians are another group who need information in order to best guide their students into college and career tech pathways. This is especially true for first-generation, minoritized, and/or low socio-economic status students and their families. Unfortunately, reaching parents where they are can be a challenge, particularly during a pandemic.

With a focus on “meeting parents where they are,” the Ohio Alliance of Dual Enrollment Partnerships (OADEP) and the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) teamed up in February 2021 to provide a free live webinar for Ohio parents and guardians whose students are (or may become) involved in the state’s College Credit Plus (CCP) dual enrollment program. Dr. Larisa Harper, Director of CCP, two of her staff members, Jackie Jenkins (OADEP Vice President) and I (OADEP President) collaborated to create a webinar entitled “Top Ten Tips for CCP Parents and their Families.”

With topics such as understanding financial aid, time management, credit transfer, and following pathways, we fashioned the webinar in two parts: first, we covered the top ten tips, and then we hosted a question and answer session. The webinar was advertised on the ODHE website and the OADEP listserv. High school counselors who frequent both sites shared the information directly with students and parents in their school districts.

The response was phenomenal. Over 900 people registered for the event and over 600 participated. The large number of attendees caused some initial disruption in our WebEx feed, but it wasn’t long before we were up and running. Our group spent about 50 minutes presenting on the “tips” and then the next 70 minutes were all question and answer, and we recorded the webinar for those who couldn’t attend or for those who might want to revisit it.

Our goal for the webinar was to make sure everyone left feeling more confident about their CCP knowledge. This knowledge for parents is important not only as they help their students make decisions about dual enrollment but also in general. Sometimes parents don’t even know where to begin or what questions to ask when it comes to DE. Webinars such as this one help provide a baseline of understanding upon which knowledge and communication can grow.

OADEP and ODHE are looking forward to making the webinar an annual event. Prior to the pandemic, we had not thought of reaching out to parents in this manner, but last year’s pivot to increased online information sharing was a catalyst for creating this communal learning space. Granted, not all parents have access to the technology needed to participate in a webinar such as this one; however, we see this as a good first step with (we hope) many more to follow.