The concept of mentorship is deeply rooted in the human psyche. In that respect, there is widespread belief across all facets of society that a more experienced and knowledgeable person can take someone under their wing and help them grow both as a person and as a professional. But perhaps nowhere is this idea more prevalent than in the area of education. Especially as people move towards higher education levels, the bond between a teacher and his students grows ever more important.
When it comes to online learning, however, this type of bond is undoubtedly affected by the complex challenges associated with creating any kind of long-distance relationship over the Internet. But, as more and more people gravitate towards earning online degrees and qualifications, it's becoming imperative that the traditional mentor-student bond be maintained even in the online world. Luckily, with a better understanding of technology and some good old-fashioned creativity, many institutes of learning have managed to establish a healthy rapport between students and supervisors. With that in mind, let's explore what some of the common characteristics of the mentor-disciple relationship are in the world of online learning:
One of the biggest attributes of any successful teacher lies in structuring coursework in such a way that their students stand to gain the most from it. From setting deadlines to establishing various project benchmarks, it's a mentor's duty to ensure that everything is structured appropriately. In an online learning program, proper organisation is even more important, as many of the students enrolled will tend to have busy lives with families and jobs on the side. A good mentor knows this and is able to create the proper context in which long-distance students can flourish.
Online education courses usually encourage self-responsibility when it comes to completing coursework. After all, students opt for this type of education because they usually don't have the time or inclination to sit in class for hours in order to get a degree the old-fashioned route. But no student should ever have to be left to his or her own devices when faced with difficult topics that require adequate explanation and examples in order to be fully understood. In this regard, online teachers are no different than regular ones, as they take steps to create a context with which students can engage and feel free to ask any and all questions pertaining to their coursework.
Just like in a traditional school, students who enrol in online courses expect to receive feedback whenever they submit an essay or a project. Unlike in real life however, most of the feedback in the online world is provided in written form, with various discussions and presentations being organized through e-mails. If a participant is in need of additional clarifications, things like telephone conversations or Skype calls can usually be arranged, but they are not the norm in this type of setting.
Speaking of which, communication has a vastly different flavour when done online. There are two main possibilities here: asynchronous communication, which is usually done through e-mail and other similar means where participants take turns to engage in conversation, and synchronous communication, facilitated by instant messaging services and the like, where the whole point is to talk with your conversation partner at the same time. While some people will likely miss the personal rapport than only conversing face-to-face can bring, communicating through specialised software is often better for study purposes because it leaves a trail that is useful when reviewing assignments or reflecting on certain clarifications.
Proper studying often requires the presence of significant resources that can allow students to fully immerse themselves in the subjects they're exploring. While most online schools have ample resources at their disposal, it stands to reason that some students may want to go the extra mile if they're passionate about something. In that case, they'll benefit immensely from a direct connection with a mentor who can provide them with the additional resources they need in order to deepen their knowledge of any given topic. Tutors can also help guide a student through their research process by pointing out valuable tools and methods to aid them in finding what they're looking for.
No matter how useful or convenient, there's no denying that long-distance education also has an element of loneliness to it. All those hours spent in front of a computer screen can leave one feeling slightly isolated, at least when compared to the experience of learning on campus. But here's where an online mentor comes in. Top-notch online schools seek to provide a sense of togetherness that includes all their alumni, which translates to a strong bond between faculty members and their respective students. Having a well-developed student-mentor network can greatly help with any feelings of isolation, as well as encourage a higher overall performance on the student's part.
In a regular classroom, a teacher is expected to be a mediator between the many different students that make up the class. But online courses don't function like typical classes, which means that students can sometimes feel the lack of a genuine connection with their fellow colleagues due to not being in the same classroom as them; students are still expected to follow an accepted code of conduct, and regulatory laws and practises still apply as they would in any traditional institution. A good online teacher can make up for this, however, by simply encouraging group work and fostering peer support.