E-Mentoring

E-Mentoring

Jamie S. Switzer (Colorado State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 5
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch124
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Abstract

Colleges and universities are adept at teaching students in the academic sense. Often what is lacking in a student’s education is a thorough grasp of the “real world”; how their chosen field actually functions and operates. One way for students to gain an understanding of a particular occupation is to interact with a mentor. Mentors can offer valuable intellectual resources to students (O’Neil & Gomez, 1996). Regardless of the quality of their education, students still need the practical information that can only be provided by a working professional who can present students an awareness of the real world (O’Neil, 2001). A mentor, however, is much, much more than a professional with unique expertise in a specific vocation. While mentors do provide career knowledge and the means for technical skill development, mentors can offer a myriad of services. They provide support, encouragement, and guidance. Mentors act as role models, teaching and nurturing students, demonstrating appropriate skills and behaviors. They are friends to students, providing them a means to network and find jobs.
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Introduction

Colleges and universities are adept at teaching students in the academic sense. Often what is lacking in a student’s education is a thorough grasp of the “real world”; how their chosen field actually functions and operates. One way for students to gain an understanding of a particular occupation is to interact with a mentor. Mentors can offer valuable intellectual resources to students (O’Neil & Gomez, 1996). Regardless of the quality of their education, students still need the practical information that can only be provided by a working professional who can present students an awareness of the real world (O’Neil, 2001).

A mentor, however, is much, much more than a professional with unique expertise in a specific vocation. While mentors do provide career knowledge and the means for technical skill development, mentors can offer a myriad of services. They provide support, encouragement, and guidance. Mentors act as role models, teaching and nurturing students, demonstrating appropriate skills and behaviors. They are friends to students, providing them a means to network and find jobs.

Connecting students and mentors can be difficult, particularly with regard to time and place. A student’s schedule may not be compatible with a mentor’s calendar, making a face-to-face meeting difficult. There could be a considerable geographic distance between a student and a mentor, making an in-person visit time-consuming and expensive. However, technology-mediated mentoring, also known as e-mentoring, can overcome the challenges of time and distance, and provide mentoring opportunities that otherwise would not exist (Single & Single, 2005).

BACKGROUND: MENTORS THROUGHOUT HISTORY

The concept of “mentoring” extends way back in time to Ancient Greece. Homer’s epic “The Odyssey” recounts how the warrior Odysseus left his son for many years in the care of Odysseus’ trusted friend, Mentor (Brockbank & McGill, 1998; Kerry & Mayes, 1995; Wickman & Sjodin, 1997). Ever since, the word “mentor” has come to stand for a trusted, skilled older adult who provides guidance, advice, and counsel to a (usually) younger, less-experienced person.

Mentorship was once widely practiced in the arts and sciences. Today, the idea of mentoring has gone far beyond its original disciplines. Anyone, in any profession, can be a mentor.

Definition of a Mentor

There are many different articulations of the definition of a mentor, yet they all have essentially the same meaning. The Encarta World English Dictionary defines a mentor as “somebody, usually older and more experienced, who provides advice and support to, and watches over and fosters the progress of, a younger, less experienced person” (1999, p. 1131). Stone (2002) defines a mentor as “someone who offers knowledge, insight, perspective, or wisdom that is especially useful to the other person” (p. 74).

“A mentor is a trusted and significant leader who works with a partner (a mentee) to help them learn things more quickly or earlier, or to learn things they otherwise might not have learned” says Lacey (2000, p. 7). Alleman (1986) believes a mentor is someone with greater expertise who counsels, teaches, guides, and develops novices. Wickman and Sjodin (1997) define a mentor as “someone who helps us learn the ways of the world, someone who has our best interests at heart” (p. 1). According to Brockbank (1994), students in higher education describe a mentor as a friend, confidante, counselor, or parent figure who is non-directive and non-judgmental.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Computer-Mediated Communication/Technology-Mediated Communication: The use of computer technologies to communicate and share information.

E-Mentoring/Mentoring at a Distance/Telementoring/Virtual Mentoring: Using communication technologies to participate in the act of mentoring.

Mentoring: The act of providing knowledge, guidance, and support by a more experienced person to a less experienced person.

Mentee: A person benefiting from the experience and knowledge of another person.

Mentor: A person providing knowledge, guidance, and support to a less experienced person.

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