Mentoring for Online Instructors

Online learning at Penn State continues to grow. A whopping 42% of our resident students have taken an online course. Predictions are that the number of online students will continue to increase and as a result, we are thinking of how to best help faculty in their transition to online instruction. One tactic is to encourage mentoring of new faculty and last fall the Faculty Engagement subcommittee of the Penn State Online Coordinating Council and the Schreyer Institute piloted an online mentoring program for those new to online teaching (http://www.schreyerinstitute.psu.edu/onlinementor). The intent of this effort is to provide instructional support for those teaching online and to create opportunities for networking with others teaching online.

The online mentoring experience is intended to last a semester and is, first and foremost, a collegial relationship. Through the mentor’s personal guidance, the prot�g� can question and explore online teaching strategies and expectations. Dialogue drives this relationship, but the mentor can also review online course activities and interactions. What is needed and how to go about getting those needs are met is something that is left to the devices of the mentor and prot�g�.

What do you think — would a mentor be helpful to you as you begin teaching online? Or would you like a mentor even though you have taught online? By engaging in a mentoring relationship, you can ask questions, share comments, voice concerns, dissect instructional strategies, and feel connected to someone else who has walked in your shoes.

One thought on “Mentoring for Online Instructors

  1. PAMELA A MONK

    I was a mentor for Heather who was teaching an online class of English15. I have taught this F2F, and done some teaching of Comm461 on line, so we had enough experience in common to have good discussions.
    Heather is really conscientious, which is why she asked for a mentor in the first place, and was great about keeping in touch. WE set up two main means of communication-

    - a shared journal on Google Docs
    - a weekly meeting via Google video chat.
    -I was also on her class list
    -For the couple of times there were questions that needed a timely answer, email worked well.

    The weekly meetings were really beneficial. We didn’t just talk about the class, we discussed teaching issues as they came up, also philosophy, trouble shooting, conversations about balancing life and teaching. It was companionable, more of a partnership than anything else. Teaching at the college level in any format is much more isolating than K-12 where I came from, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to share thoughts and ideas – sit back and think about what we are doing. Oddly you don’t get that much opportunity for reflection with others at this level.

    Here is an odd factoid…on Google, if you make the discussion public, which I did one day inadvertently (and couldn’t figure out how to change back to private) you will be treated to random people-men for the most part- from anywhere in the world popping into your space. It was extremely odd, and somewhat creepy. We dealt with it by blocking out the intruders, and I managed to avoid the public setting after that. BUT, it was a reminder that there is NO PRIVACY on line, whatsoever and anyone who thinks so is bound to have problems.

    I completely recommend the experience- we learned together. I never felt as though I had to be some font of all wisdom, just a teacher in the same boat.

Leave a Reply