What is the Difference Between an Online Teacher and Learning Coach

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student learning the difference between an online teacher and learning coach

When you first heard the term “Learning Coach,” you may have thought it was synonymous with “teacher,” just like many first-time at-home school parents. At first glance, these titles seem similar because they both involve a degree of leadership for students. But when it comes to virtual school, the roles of Learning Coach vs. teacher are very distinct. 

So, as the parent of a virtual school student, which role should you be playing

Teachers and Learning Coaches are accountable for several duties throughout a child’s education that they each handle differently; however, both collaborate to enhance the student’s online learning experience. 

If you’re considering online school for your child, we are here to help you determine how to fulfill your Learning Coach role and find the right level of parent involvement in your child’s schooling. Take a look at the various differences between teacher and Learning Coach below to learn more about your specific duties and the ways each role can complement the other!

Online Teacher vs. Learning Coach

Virtual schools have certified teachers who are dedicated to helping students succeed. But what is a Learning Coach? A Learning Coach is a trusted adult who serves as a guide, supporter, and motivator to further stimulate learning and establish a suitable structure for the school day at home. The role of a Learning Coach evolves over time as the student gains confidence and develops more academic skills.

Among other things, teachers and Learning Coaches oversee daily learning, provide assistance, and monitor progress in different ways.

Daily Learning

Breathe easy; it is the teacher's responsibility to teach and provide students with learning material. A K-12 Learning Coach is not required to plan any lessons or select curriculum. Instead, they should make sure that the student stays focused each school day. 

Here are a few examples of tasks teachers and Learning Coaches complete to facilitate daily learning:

Online Teacher

  • Leads the class during real-time virtual classroom sessions
  • Presents new material
  • Plans various lessons for specific subjects
  • Determines which topics will be covered each day

Learning Coach

  • Encourages breaks throughout the day when appropriate
  • Motivates the student to complete lessons
  • Makes sure the student has what they need for a productive school day
  • Asks the student what they learned at the end of each day to maintain open dialogue

Questions and Assistance

Since teachers lead the class, it is important that major questions about assignments and learning material be directed at them—after all, that is what teachers are there for! Learning Coaches can help with small concerns and questions such as, "Am I on the right track?" or "Am I being clear in this essay?" 

The more students reach out to their teachers, the more they will grow to be independent learners. Here are a few examples of tasks that teachers and Learning Coaches complete to effectively assist students:

Online Teacher

  • Answers the student’s questions in the virtual classroom, or via phone or WebMail
  • Offers support through individual online sessions
  • Personalizes lessons based on the student's needs
  • Clarifies any confusion or misunderstanding

Learning Coach

  • Prompts the student to communicate with the teacher when needed
  • Answers minor questions and assists with assignments but does not resolve the problem or do the work on the student's behalf
  • Reassures the student when he or she is having trouble understanding a concept
  • Implements some learning activities that might help with areas of weakness
An online school family learning the difference between a Learning Coach and a teacher in virtual school


Teachers and Learning Coaches both play a key role in monitoring a student’s progress. The two are encouraged to stay in contact throughout the school year to discuss how the student is doing. 

Here are a few examples of tasks that teachers and Learning Coaches complete to properly monitor a student's progress:

Online Teacher

  • Communicates frequently with the student to ensure that they understand the material before moving on
  • Contacts the Learning Coach to discuss the student’s progress
  • Tracks recent activity
  • Analyzes student performance
  • Works with the student and establishes a plan to tackle subjects that require more practice

Learning Coach

  • Documents the student's attendance on a daily basis
  • Assists with organization and time management skills
  • Stays in contact with teacher for regular updates and suggestions
  • Ensures that the student is working at an appropriate learning pace

Even though teachers and Learning Coaches play different roles, the student’s journey to success is a team effort!

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