A mentor is by definition someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced, often younger, person, i.e., a trusted counselor or guide. While this may sound like a familiar role in a traditional brick-and-mortar teaching environment, when it comes to online and blended learning a mentor role takes on a new life. So, what does a mentor in an online and blended environment look like?
What Is a Mentor in a Blended and Online Learning?
In an online and blended learning environment, it is imperative to make sure that students stay on task even as they have more control of the pacing their own learning. This is where a mentor comes in. A mentor can be a school-appointed teacher, volunteer, a parent, or really anyone who is responsible for a student’s academic success.
A mentor is responsible for:
- Ensuring that students are logging in to their online classes
- Being in constant contact with students’ online instructors
- Acting as liaison between students and their teachers and administrators
- Managing course enrollments
- Monitoring student progress
- Directing students to resources available in order to be successful
- Keeping school administrators and parents abreast of what’s going on with classes; how they work and how they can benefit the student
- Working directly with teachers when there are student escalations in order to reach resolutions
The Habits of a Successful Mentor vs. an Unsuccessful Mentor
|Logs in and checks dashboards daily/weekly to check student progress||Rarely checks student progress and falls behind|
|Participates in significant training about how student online course platform works and can perform basic functions within the system||Ignores training and contacts their online course representative each time they need something|
|Responds back to student/teacher emails, questions, and requests in a timely manner—24 hours or less||Often delays in responding to student communication or reaching out to teachers|
|Monitors student engagement using weekly engagement reports and dashboards AND reaches out to students when they are falling behind schedule or their grades are low||Does not utilize resources available to track student engagement and fails to notify students of their progress until it’s too late|
|Helps students begin their courses in a strong way—encourages students to read, attend orientations, and stay in touch with their teachers||Does not know where orientations are found or how to help students get started in courses|
|Knows where to look for passwords and gets them to students in a timely fashion||Tells students to go to teachers for passwords—passes off responsibility|
|Reminds students if they have only one attempt on quizzes and tests and, if an issue arises, emails teachers for resets||Tells students to go to teachers for quiz/test resets—again, passing responsibility|
While these guidelines can help any online and blended learning mentor be successful, they are not inclusive of all the responsibilities and adventures that may arise in a nontraditional learning environment. In addition to the tips and practices above, mentors for programs that use FuelEd have access to additional training resources and guidelines that were developed based on our experience with thousands of online and blended learning programs. For example, here are some additional practices I’ve seen successful mentors use:
- Encouraging students to attend course orientations
- Emailing teachers with any questions regarding student progress
- Setting up dashboard alerts to help with student monitoring and engagement
- Utilizing weekly engagement reports to help with student monitoring and better tracking progress
While this role isn’t widely discussed when it comes to online and blended learning, the roles that mentors play in a nontraditional learning environment are one of the most important in ensuring student success. As online and blended learning continues to grow, so will the importance of the mentor.
About the Author
Ashley Shorter is currently a client services manager for the full-time programs at Fuel Education. Ashley was previously a client achievement coordinator with the full-time program division and an English teacher for the virtual northeast schools. Prior to joining FuelEd in 2012, Ashley was a high school English teacher and utilizes her experiences in brick-and-mortar classrooms and virtual teaching experience every day to help her clients with their specific needs regarding student achievement and engagement. Ashely graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in middle and secondary education.