The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the introduction of many new norms and regulations of social distancing and self-quarantining, which affected almost all areas of our lives.
One of the biggest changes occurred in the education system, which had to assume a new mode of delivering knowledge, i.e. the online teaching.
Consequently, in a very short period of time, many professors had to adjust their teaching methods to the new, distance learning environment.
At the same time, the students had to get accustomed to the new reality – not only in terms of assignments and schoolwork but also when it came to dealing with the lack of social interaction with their peers.
To succeed in such difficult times is not easy, which is why we have witnessed the growing popularity of mentoring.
What Is Mentoring?
Mentoring is a social support system that enables people to develop and learn from their relationships with each other. The effectiveness of mentoring lies in its ability to create connections between people, despite the distance.
Mentoring relationships typically occur over a lengthy period of time and require a commitment.
Therefore, the mentoring relationship allows for closer interaction and deeper connection with peers, which would be otherwise difficult in the online learning environment because of the lack of personal interactions.
Yet, there are many great online mentoring platforms.
From the perspective of students, it turns out to be particularly important to have someone who can support them in understanding the nature and meaning of online studying, especially at the beginning of their education.
An early mentor provides guidance on academic and social aspects of distance learning as well as access to information and support services.
In addition, a mentor is able to help students with their transition to university by creating an extra layer of support outside formal learning structures.
The Role of Mentors in Distance Learning
So, why is it important to have a mentor in a distance learning environment?
Let’s focus on the factors which indicate that this type of relationship can turn out to be extremely effective in this particular case:
There are several distinct advantages when it comes to having a mentor in a distance-learning environment.
Having someone who addresses the difficulties that may occur from time to time during the remote studying process can help students decrease their stress levels.
Also, mentors usually have good connections within their field due to working in an academic institution for several years.
As a result, they are usually very knowledgeable in professional matters as well as informal issues.
In addition, they also often have good interpersonal skills because they work on solving the coordination problems between mentors and mentees every day.
However, mentoring is not always about intellectual superiority or authority – even some fifteen-year-olds are capable of mentoring other students.
Challenges Arising From Distance Mentoring
The main challenge for any form of the mentoring relationship is the difficulty of establishing the mentoring link between mentor and mentee, particularly when the relationship begins online.
Depending on their personal and professional characteristics (i.e., age, gender, length of time they have been connected), mentors can prove effective role models or ineffective leaders for their mentees.
However, when it comes to being an effective mentor, there are some key characteristics that are often mentioned: empathy, warmth, competence, and an understanding of the needs of others – all are components that play an important role in interpersonal relationships regardless of whether it takes place online or not.
There are several factors that can affect students’ motivation in pursuing remote study paths: they include their ability to work independently as well as having a supportive family background and high levels of achievement during high school.
Lack of motivation and lost concentration during the study are often caused by dissatisfaction; it leads to feeling that you have no control over your life, and thus, you lose control over yourself.
Trying to regain control leads to actions that are intended to reduce anxiety and aversive states.
These mostly end up doing more damage than good; eventually, this results in withdrawing from the situation completely either by quitting studies or giving up on even simple tasks.
As a mentor, it is essential for you to recognize signs of low motivation and adjust your ways of communicating with students if you want them to feel happy when it comes to the distance learning experience at university.
Be patient with them. Do not penalize them for not understanding everything from day one and encourage questions.
Mentoring is an integral part of the modern education system. It is crucial for students to have someone they can trust from within the academic community.
An “insider” who knows the professors and the ways in which they teach their subjects can prove to be tremendously helpful in preparing students for final exams.
This type of relationship is particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic when we spend most of our time in isolation.
For some students, the interactions with their mentors can give them additional energy and will to push on during their studies, rather than give up.
In these trying times, mentors are not only helping students with their education but, in some cases, even safeguarding their mental health!