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NECC Invests in New Support Service for Online Learners

Submitted by on July 23, 2020 – 9:41 pm


With a fall semester that’s 90 percent online because of the pandemic, many Northern Essex Community College students may be taking an online course for the first time, and not by choice.

In order to be sure all students—even the reluctant online learners—have the tools to succeed, Northern Essex is investing $100,000 in a new peer ambassador program.

Carefully selected for their prior success in online courses, each member of the team of 15 to 20 ambassadors will spend 10 hours a week reaching out to students and connecting them with college resources, such as IT, the library, academic coaching, tutoring and more, all of which are offering remote and virtual services during the pandemic.

Ambassadors will communicate with students using a new chat tool, email, texts, phone, and Blackboard, the college’s learning management system. Individual students can reach out to an ambassador with questions and students who seem to be struggling will be referred to an ambassador by a faculty member.

“In the past our students could decide whether they wanted to take online classes but now they may have concerns about whether online is a good fit for their learning style,” said Audrey Ellis, director of student success management. “It became apparent that we need to step up our outreach to make sure our students are successful.”

“Our ambassadors are going to be triaging; they’re the first line of defense for our students,” said Ellis. “Once they’ve assessed the situation, they will connect the student to someone on staff who can help them get on track.”

The college is recruiting now to hire the first team of ambassadors, who will start August 24 and receive $12.75 an hour. Ideal candidates should have a track record of success as an online learner and a 2.7 or above GPA. Other required skills include problem solving, empathy and a comfort level with reaching out to students by phone, email, or chat.

Northern Essex transitioned to remote learning mid-semester in the spring of 2020 when COVID-19 first became an issue. Early this summer, they announced that 90 percent of fall 2020 courses would be offered online. Only classes that require a face-to-face experience, such as health and science labs, will be taught traditionally this fall, on campus.

In addition to these new support services for students, Northern Essex has invested a half million dollars to prepare faculty who have previously taught face-to-face for online teaching. The college is also putting resources toward a laptop requirement for students that will insure that all students have the technology needed to succeed.

To learn more about the new peer ambassador program, contact Audrey Ellis,

Here’s how you can apply.


Northern Essex Community College has campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. It offers more than 60 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth.  Each year, more than 5,000 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 2,600 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley.  For more information, visit the website at or call 978-556-3700.