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This content was published: May 23, 2016. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.

Mentoring? Coaching? Future steps for our mentor program

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Are you aware of our Online Faculty Mentor program? Do you know there’s a faculty mentor responsible for each discipline that has online courses? Mentors are responsible for a number of things, e.g. they guide new online instructors in the training and course development process. They work with instructors, department chairs and deans to provide guidance on the best starting D2L shell for a course that is based on a shared course shell. The mentor will often help get an older course into the most current D2L template.

At the end of the course development or revision process, mentors complete the PCC course review, based on the Quality Matters rubric. Karen Sorensen teams up with each mentor to provide feedback on the accessibility of a course, and the mentor sends the combined review complete with feedback and a recommendation to the division dean. It’s important to note that the dean makes the final approval of an online course as being ready to go live for our PCC students. As a final crucial step, our faculty mentors work with instructors during the first teach term to provide feedback and guidance along the way.

The focus of our mentoring program

From the mentor perspective, the crucial part of the process, as well as the most rewarding, is meeting with instructors to brainstorm strategies and provide guidance on course design and good pedagogical practices. Mentors are not the “gatekeepers” for good online instruction, but rather the catalysts. They are an energized group, ready to share ideas with any online instructor, including those new to online learning as well as experienced online instructors. They are happy to work cross-discipline as well, not typically in regards to course reviews, but in terms of sharing best pedagogical practices, e.g. at division or SAC meetings. I invite you to reach out to them. Involve them in your efforts to promote effective online teaching strategies.

Expanding our mentor program

The perception of mentors as peer “coaches” as opposed to “gatekeepers” is an important one to keep in mind. This is one of the needs or “gaps” that have been discussed regarding the mentor program. Related questions arise as well. How can we increase mentor/mentee involvement? As it is, the mentoring usually occurs over a relatively short time period, and most of the process is focused on course design and the review. This limitation is not the desired intent. How can we move to more of a longer term “coaching” model that involves sharing advanced level strategies in addition to entry level? How can we increase mentor involvement with the SAC? I welcome your ideas.

We’ve come a long way since the start of our mentor program in 2009, but we are now seeing opportunities and the need for further expansion. What will that look like beyond simply adding more mentors? I invite you to share your thoughts either through a response to this blog post, or in an email message to me.

Future steps… are you interested?

One simple step in the near future will be to add mentors in a few additional areas. Up to this point, mentors have come on board when we have a clear need in specific areas, largely through recommendations from deans and department chairs, and partially through previously demonstrated expertise with the QM rubric, course design, online teaching strategies, and accessibility. Another crucial characteristic of a faculty mentor is the strong ability to collaborate 1-1 in a mentor/mentee situation and to contribute as part of a team.

This process will continue, though I would like to open it up more to invite instructors to express interest. At the moment, I do foresee a future need for a mentor in a few specific areas:

  • Health, Fit/Tech, Nutrition, PE
  • Sciences (e.g. Geology, Chemistry)
  • Education, ECE
  • COMM
  • PHIL, PS, ECON
  • Art

Feel free to contact me if you might be interested sometime in the future, regardless of your subject area. I am happy to continue the discussion.

A salute to our former mentors

Last, but not least, special recognition to those who have served as Online Faculty Mentor…

  • Dan Dougherty, CIS
  • Gabe Hunter-Bernstein, Education
  • Florence Spraggins, AD
  • Chris Hughes, Math
  • Kathy Carrigan, Chemistry
  • Susan Watson, CAS
  • Amy Clubb, CAS
  • Rondi Schei, ECON, BA
  • Lori Wamsley, Education
  • Andrew Forshee, ECE

About Greg Kaminski

Online Learning: online course design consultant, coordinator of Online Faculty Mentors, Quality Matters facilitator, interactive teaching practices enthusiast. more »