The role of the mentor in developing e-learning.

Interviewer:
And so the mentoring role then, how did you envisage that might work out?

Do Coyle:
Right. The mentoring role we - was something which evolved over the period of the project. We knew, right from the very beginning, that the groups needed a mentor and, at that stage, it was rather a simplistic view of mentoring, but basically, it was around trying to guide and help people, trying to make sure that there were time limits to what was happening, and this became, really, a very important role.

Tony Fisher:
I suppose you’d expect us to think about mentoring in the School of Education, because we are familiar with it in a range of contexts, not least in the context of initial teacher education and the experience of new teachers in schools.

And also, just a recognition, I guess, that perhaps sometimes change is difficult, unsettling, may lead to feelings of risk and insecurity, and therefore a mentor is somebody who has a specific responsibility to work with people, and attend to their needs in a broad mentoring sense.

So not just being somebody who maybe knows how to do things, but somebody who’s going to be able to be supportive, to give some sort of, wise counsel where that’s appropriate, but also to be a sympathetic ear. I think all of that is important in the role of mentors, so we’re thinking about that, kind of, general mentoring rather than, perhaps, technical advice.

Gordon Joyes:
They needed to be aware of the need to help people solve the problems themselves, because they’d been through that and understood how to go through that process. So they weren’t necessarily people that you would look at as being just good with the technologies because they use it.

A key quality is to have empathy for where those people are at, and recognise that incorporating technologies, no matter how small a step you may think it is from where you are now, was a big hurdle, and it is a big hurdle for people who actually have maybe experienced it, and have felt - well, have found it problematic in their first attempts.

And a lot of people we’re dealing with, at this stage, technology’s been around for a while, and they’re not actually incorporating it. So we know that they’re going to feel - even though they’re willing, that we know that they’re going to feel less confident at the beginning.

Brett Bligh:
It didn’t have to be, sort of, imposed from above, but then we imposed a structure of our own, so we started to have regular timetabled meetings, and action points taken at those meetings, so that we each knew what we were going to do.

And then, on top of that, there was the necessity for regular contact, which was often by email or phone, and also, seeing each other in the corridor.

Rolf Wiesemes:
I guess, there was two different sorts of mentoring involved. One was the, sort of, two monthly or monthly meetings with the mentor, where you would talk, and talk about the progress of the project, and so on.

But then the other one, and I think those were just as important, if not more important, were, sort of, informal chats in the corridor, when you had just made a little bit of progress, and then Mike would react to something, and would send you an email with a url for certain software that I was looking for, and so on. So that was really useful.

Mike Sharples:
We were all pretty motivated, so it was just a matter of building up our expertise, mutually encouraging each other, having some good discussions, and then seeing how those discussions were actually translated into practice, and then coming back and critiquing it. So it was a cycle of coming up with ideas, seeing possibilities, trying them out, critiquing them, and then going onto the next stage.


In conversation with: Brett Bligh, Do Coyle, Tony Fisher, Gordon Joyes, Mike Sharples, Rolf Wiesemes (School of Education).

Produced: June 2008
Duration: 4 minutes : 26 seconds

Videos produced in collaboration with the University's Promoting Enhanced Student Learning (PESL) initiative.

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