Mentoring for Work Based Learning: The Role of Technology

Mentoring for Work Based Learning: The Role of Technology

Emma O’Brien (University of Limerick, Ireland) and Ileana Hamburg (Westfälische Hochschule Gelsenkirchen, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5832-5.ch012
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Abstract

Technology, particularly in the past decade, has significantly changed they way people communicate, interact, share information and learn. It offers a place independant of time and location to reach expertise and individuals that would have been impossible to otherwise attain. On a personal level, through the use of Web 2.0, individuals freely exchange knowledge and information. However at a professional level, particularly within companies, individuals are slower to use these tools to learn, share and acquire knowledge, byintegrating these techologies with a mentoring programme it can encourage their use in the free exchange of information and knowledge. Although mentoring has been widely used throughout history it does not come without its limitations. This chapter explores the use of mentoring in the context of informal learning within organisations. It examines use of Web 2.0 tools to support mentoring in companies and its ability to overcome some of the weaknesses in traditional approaches to mentoring. Furthermore the chapter explores the use of problem based learning in aligning learning outcomes in a mentoring programme and the use of technology to support this. The chapter gives an overview of three research projects which have been conducted into the use of technology mediated mentoring for informal learning within companies.
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Introduction

The use of mentoring as a method of learning dates back to ancient Greek times. To this day it is still used at an informal and formal level within human resources development processes. Technology particularly the use of Web 2.0 and social media tools have magnified people’s network and connections and made it feasible to access people and information relatively easily thus facilitating successful mentoring processes. Online there are hundreds of informal networks in which people support each other through technical, lifestyle, domestic and commercial problems. In a formal context learning is now being delivered through a blend of online and face to face activities. Communities of practice (CoPs), which are a type of social community, provide mentoring support to students through their learning experience and based on a voluntary participation. Within companies social networking has been largely used for marketing purposes. Web 2.0 has been used for communication and business activities but not at its complete potential for learning. Despite their success in the public domain, within companies these technologies have not widely been used to mentor and support employees.

In terms of knowledge, mentoring is used to transfer and support tacit knowledge and best practices between ‘experts’ and ‘novices. Web 2.0 has been widely used in companies to document tacit knowledge and make this knowledge explicit in databases, intranets, and experts available via ‘yellow pages’. Email and online applications such as the above are used to transfer tacit knowledge however technology is not used to support mentoring.

This chapter will discuss informal and formal mentoring applied within the public domain. It will examine mentoring as an informal learning tool and the shortcomings of the methods currently used in companies, it will look at the use of technology in overcoming these problems. It will also examine the use of mentoring in problem based learning and make recommendations for the use of both Web 2.0 and social media tools for mentoring in companies. In addition it will give some examples of the application of these tools in this context.

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