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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Creating a culture of online learning and mentoring

Creating a culture of online learning and mentoring

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31 Replies 993 Views
Recently, the school I work at advertised for an online learning and mentoring coordinator. I think this is a really proactive step - but it raises an interesting problem. This school is a middle sized high school (about 750 students) located in Western Sydney. Computer access on site is quite high - (about 1 machine for 2 students) and access at home is equally high (more than 90% of students have computers with internet access at home). It is a day school, so the online learning component would obviously be in addition to normal face to to face teaching - perhaps supplemental or maybe after school hours. My questions are these: 1. How would this coordinator go about creating an online learning culture? What tools or strategies would you recommend for using this? How would the coordinator establish a 'critical mass' of participating students? 2. What would online mentoring look like, as opposed to online learning? What advice would you give to set this up?

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Greg Farley's picture
Greg Farley
Director of Technology at Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District, NJ

There is a tremendous need for online mentoring and formative evaluation for new online teachers. Teachers that did not learn in an online environment can struggle to adapt prior practices to a changing landscape of education. A generation indoctrinated to learn in a certain way needs mentoring and exposure to new methods of teaching and learning.

This is an emerging area that requires further research and structure to develop successful educators as face-to-face instruction moves to an online learning environment. I studied 3 school district in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in which administrators and teachers craved that connection and sought dialogue on improvement of practice--This component is overlooked due to competing interests and is crucial for success in cyberschools.

Ms. Evans's picture
Ms. Evans
Founder of EVS Orlando Tutor

Your points are well put. Online mentoring should have an identified group of pupils with identified mentoring needs. There should also be a curriculum and plan in place for the implementation of the program. It is something I am thinking about developing based on needs assessment. Mentoring can serve a multitude of cultures, right. It definitely would not be a one size fits all...

Ms. Evans's picture
Ms. Evans
Founder of EVS Orlando Tutor

It seems that a person who would seek mentoring online would ultimately be seeking social media interaction first. So how can a program be designed to provide meaningful and useful content which leaves out an actual human connection, is the task to delve into. It's a tough concept because mentoring has traditionally included real life human connection, like "Big Brothers and Big Sisters," for example. This would have to be a program designed perhaps with assignments given where human contact occurs as part of the program (human contact with others, not just the online mentor.) A program where criteria would need to be met and completed with some type of incentive for completing the program. Whether or not this could be an ongoing or lifelong commitment would be another question to consider- the length of the program and the desired outcome are other important ideas to ponder etc.

Ms. Evans's picture
Ms. Evans
Founder of EVS Orlando Tutor

Sounds interesting Keith. Tell me more. Maybe I can help.

Billy Beesley's picture

Our online virtual high school uses a program where teachers are assigned a number of students to act as an advisor/mentor to them. We've tried a couple of different models in past years.

We also have social activities and events scheduled at our online school which helps mentor/advisors relate to students outside of the classroom.

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia
Facilitator 2014

So, we are now 5 weeks into the new school year at my school. We have appointed an online learning and mentoring coordinator, and mentoring is taking place via a combination of face to face and weekly emails. Already, it seems that we are seeing signs of success: due to us being a trade training centre, some students are absent for long blocks of time due to doing trade training or apprenticeship blocks. However, the weekly emails links them back into the school, as well as providing them with a way to get in touch if they need assistance.

So far, so good!

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia
Facilitator 2014

Oh, if anyone wants to see the proposal we put together, let me know and I will email it to you.

Hubert V. Yee's picture
Hubert V. Yee
social media and marketing manager of startup

Hi Keith,

I would love to check out your proposal! I'll send you an email. How are you assessing the program? Thanks!

CL's picture
Higher Ed

I worked with online mentoring during the early days of email, and found it incredibly freeing. Before emailing, college students called me at home on holidays and in the middle of the night. That would not be the case in a public school, hopefully.

My favorite part of online academic advising: being able to save discussions. Certain students do not retain verbal information well, and others make claims in error. With emailed responses, I can send back earlier messages.

Our institution uses a robust registration system, where early alerts can be sent to students early in the term. The students' advisors and department heads can be copied in automatically. The record-keeping ability is truly wonderful.

As for creating an online community, heh heh, take it slowly. If you build it, they will come.

Susan Gauvin's picture
Susan Gauvin
Canadian, parent, homeschooling, raised in public education

I think technology needs to be used for the information, visuals...keep the mentoring community based. Coaching and guidance can be done online. Making peoples talents and skills visable is a task in itself. A few examples:1) I remember as a child my girlfriends brother was doing animation. I visited once and was awe struck to see his sketches but never learned to do it myself. 2) Finding dance or piano classes for my daughter (in several communities from Canada to now China) has been a mission on its own. Cost, time, distance, finding the instuctor/tutor/mentor takes navigating social stigmas, predjudices, coveted time of instuctors, etc.... I wrote to Craigslist asking them to start a mentoring listing link :( . Following Mentoring.org , (my mind mapping on this topic http://www.slideshare.net/shhg )

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