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It’s no secret we’re excited about online and blended learning. Education is going digital – everyone knows it, but there’s a ton of fear and uncertainty about what that future looks like. If online training is the Wild West, then Tom McCormack is the new sheriff in town. He recently joined HeatSpring with the title of ‘Student Advocate’. This is a new position that we think will become standard industry practice as more organizations begin investing in education technology.

Why Hire a Student Advocate?

Everybody knows what to expect in a seminar or classroom: a comfortable, distraction-free learning environment and an instructor who is knowledgeable and respectful. If these things aren’t provided as part of a program, people notice quickly and are generally comfortable speaking up and advocating for themselves. We’ve found people to be more tentative and less vocal in an online setting.

For many people, their first HeatSpring class is also their first experience with good online learning, so they don’t know what to expect. The results we’re seeing in our classes are better than average for online programs: 66% successfully finish their paid trainings and our average student ratings are 9.2 / 10.0. Not bad. But that 34% who don’t finish the class looms large for us – and that number is even higher for the free classes we offer. The Student Advocate’s primary job is to decrease variability across the classes, and improve our class completion rate.  Completion rates of 90% are unheard of for online training, but that’s where we want to be.

Even more exciting than a higher completion rate is what a Student Advocate can do to increase the market value of each learning experience. Because we can measure and validate new skills gained through training, we can help students tell a more compelling story to customers or employers. Most people aren’t used to marketing themselves and their education that way – something a Student Advocate can help with. Ever have somebody ‘endorse’ you on LinkedIn? That’s a small, tangible example of how professionals are beginning to help each other demonstrate expertise. We’re going to start helping students show the world the awesome things they do in class – an effort that will be led by our Student Advocate.

Why Did We Pick Tom?

Tom HeatSpring headshotTom likes people, he’s organized, and he gets why this is a unique and exciting position. He also happens to have Masters Degrees in Teaching and Urban Planning – so he’s wicked smart. Tom taught high school for several years, developed curriculum for the University of Illinois-Chicago, and managed social media for the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

We’re lucky to have Tom in this pioneering role. I encourage all of you HeatSpring instructors and alumni to reach out to Tom – he’s accessible, hungry, and there to help make sure the time you spend in a HeatSpring training results in real, human relationships, and is a great investment in your career.

Tom McCormack can be reached at or 800-393-2044 ext. 6.