Mentoragogy for xMOOC

There are xMOOCs adopting the mentoring approach. Soon most xMOOCs would use such pedagogy.

In this post and this  Harvard asks alumni for help with humanities mooc.

For the first time, Harvard has opened a humanities course, The Ancient Greek Hero, as a free online class. In an e-mail sent Monday, it asked alumni who had taken the course at the university to volunteer as online mentors and discussion group managers.

One of the challenges of “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, is managing their sheer size, and encouraging thousands of students to engage each other, since they cannot all converse with the professor. Tapping into a deep pool of alumni offers at least a partial way around that problem, one that a few schools have discussed trying.

This sort of mentoring differs significantly from the one-on-one mentoring, and as it is practised in MOOCs, I name it as Mentoragogy.

1. Mentoring in a networked environment.

Here is my response to George’s post on Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Hi George, I have been involved in Mentoring programs for years, have been a mentor in a professional mentoring program for a year, and am still providing mentoring within my organisation.  I also found mentoring very effective in nurturing future leaders.

I have however found some challenges with mentoring in a networked learning environment.  Mentoring does require the setting up of personal goals and personal learning and action plans in order for the mentoring to be “effective”. This should normally be aligned with the personal vision and mission of the mentee, and in the case of corporate business environment, an alignment with the corporate vision and mission, if ever possible is expected or required.  So, in theory, mentoring works best with the collaboration of mentors and mentees, in both achieving the learning and performance goals negotiated and agreed upon in the mentoring process.  However, in a networked learning environment where learner autonomy could be more important than anything else, it would be necessary to make the necessary adjustment in the mentoring relationship that would be based on the mentee’s needs, rather than alignment with any corporate goals or vision, as that might intervene or jeopardize with the personal goals of the mentees.  So, mentoring may be more effective in achieving personal learning goals rather than organisational goals.

Also, the matching of mentors and mentees is a critical factor which could determine the success of a mentoring program, as the relationship established between the mentor and mentee would greatly impact on the outcome of the mentoring.  Personal learning style, personality of the mentors and mentees would also be important consideration in the mentoring matching.

The use of Web 2.0 and social networks could be important platforms for e-mentoring be designed and implemented.  There are also implications such as the skills and literacy gaps between the mentors and mentees.  The concept of zone of proximal development is important here.

Would mentoring be more successful and sustainable under a group (organisation) or networked learning environment?  How would one ensure that such a mentoring program could deliver the outcome expected by the mentee?

More researches may be necessary to understand the impact and implications of e-mentoring in social networks and online education and learning.


2. My post on Mentoring:

Slow Learning through mentoring and coaching.  Based on Clark’s presentation, and the sage on the side – with mentoring as a way to learn, your performance would improve with the help of a coach.

Mentoring is a perfect model for anyone learning through an apprenticeship program, whether it is traditional apprenticeship or cognitive apprenticeship, I suppose.  I have reflected on mentoring in the networks and communities here.

Is mentoring suitable for everyone?  No, perhaps. Here George Hobson says:

I do not think that a personal learning mentor would be my ideal learning situation. The point of open is just that – open to wherever I want to go, not someone or something else to control.

The constant prodding of a sage on the side would worry me because of both this intrusion as well as manipulation – “stealth mentoring” as Carole McCulloch puts it in her post.

I reckon there is a subtle difference between learning and performance.  There are a few myths in learning and performance:

Myth 1 – People learn best by themselves, but people perform best with others.  Assumption: People who exercise full autonomy in learning would learn best when they have a full sense of control and responsibility, and thus enjoy learning. People who work cooperatively and collaboratively with others would contribute to the group or team’s goals, and would lead to improved group’s performance.

Stephen shares his views on informal learning here:

In the case of informal learning, however, the structure is much looser. People pursue their own objectives in their own way, while at the same time initiating and sustaining an ongoing dialogue with others pursuing similar objectives. Learning and discussion is not structured, but rather, is determined by the needs and interests of the participants. There is no leader; each person participates as they deem appropriate. There are no boundaries; people drift into and out of the conversation as their knowledge and interests change.

The individual performance resulting from mere personal learning could be limited, due to the limited perspectives and capability one has.  There are exceptions, as great scientists like Issac Newton and Albert Einstein developed their theories alone, without resorting to groups or networks.  However, times have changed, and so few people could afford to learn effectively by themselves alone.  Besides, researches have revealed that Wisdom of the Crowds, or Collective Wisdom is superior to individual’s wisdom.  Group and networks perform better than individuals. This is especially the case when working in corporations, or communities, where collective efforts and contribution are valued over individuals.

To me learning and performance must go hand in hand, especially in the corporate world.  In business settings, people are looking for performance, not (necessarily) learning.  So, would that be the challenge?  That’s why we always hear the tyranny of participation!  Performance requires participation, engagement, and most important of all, cooperation and collaboration!  But learning could be personal, and even personal performance don’t necessarily align with group or collective performance.  There are still nuances between personal and group performance.

Myth 2 – People learns best from their mentors. Choosing the best mentors would lead you to career success, for sure!

Assumption: In the case of formal institutions – educational and business organisations, mentoring is commonly practiced, and highly successful leaders have been nurtured through formal mentoring program.

What is the reality?

The more autonomous an individual learner is, the more the learner would like to exercise his perceived control, which would or could lead to a dissonance or resistance to perceived power over the learner’s learning. This could both be a merit and demerit to the learning situation, as on one hand, this could challenge the learner (mentee) to be more self aware of the personal strengths and weakness, and the need of personal development in response to personal and/or organisational changes. On the other hand, this could also lead to frustrations by the learner (mentee) if she or he doesn’t feel a sense of control over the learning (like what you mentioned, the brainwashing, or could be even worse, if the mentee feels the pressure of manipulation by others, in order to achieve some goals set by others which are too ambitious or difficult to achieve). There are also risks involved when learner (mentee) doesn’t feel secure when exposes to an open learning environment or networks, where unwarranted criticisms, cyber-bullying and privacy issues all hinder the mentoring process, and may weaken the mentee’s confidence. Failures in e-connections may also be an issue for many learner mentees, that may lead them to continue to lurk, rather than active participation in networks.

“If a mentee is being honest about learning in a connective community and the organization’s mission and vision align to that of the mentee’s, then it would seem that this would be more relevant than simply the mentor/mentee relationship.” I agree with your views, though the mentor/mentee relationship could be extended to the ” mentor” being “members” or “experts” in the Community (i.e. a mentee could have many mentors) This is a value judgment, and so if we are to put learner or mentee first, would we put the community (organisation) as a way to serve the mentee? Or if we think the Community or the organisation come before the mentor & learner (mentee), then the mentoring relationship could just be a subsidiary to the organisation or Community. Would there still be a tension between individuals and Community (or organisation) in terms of needs?

I have drawn up a needs diagram, and the concept of personal autonomy in the network here.

My experience in mentoring also revealed that relationship and communication amongst mentors and mentees would be important success factors. Also, it would be imperative to cater for the (changing) needs of the mentees, throughout the mentoring process. The mentoring process could be further enhanced with the use of Web 2.0 tools, though once the mentee has mastered the skills and literacies required to learn (i.e. metacognitive learning skills and critical literacy & thinking) within organisation, or learning institutions, or community or networks, then the mentor could/should recede (i.e. step out) from the mentoring/support gradually in order to enable the mentee to fully develop his/her capacity of learning and performance from dependency to independency, and perhaps inter-dependency in networks and community.

So e-Mentoring (individually with a mentor-mentee, or a community of mentors with community of mentees) could also be a life-long learning growth process and approach rather than a one off mentoring program in order to benefit both mentors and learners (mentees). These all are context driven, and so mentoring could be best achieved with a combination of one-on-one mentoring, a Community of Practice or Learners, or a Network of Practice and Practitioners etc.

We still need a pedagogy for e-mentoring to emerge from networked learning. Would it embrace participation, engagement, communication, collaborative and appreciative inquiry, discourse? And more….. Here is an interesting post on pedagogy.

3. Another post on Mentoring:

Mentoring has been hailed as an effective solution in personal learning and development for decades.  It is one of the most effective strategies in apprenticeship programs, for new apprentices in trades up to PhD in Higher Education, and formal and informal development for supervisors, managers, directors etc.

Here in an article on Mentoring and Coaching:

Annual evaluation of the mentoring program has found that a majority of the protégés feel mentoring has increased their skills in program planning and implementation, and has helped them develop an understanding of the political and economic climate in the workplace. Mentors and protégés reported that the communication between them was conducted in a calm, relaxed atmosphere.

Would mentoring work in MOOC?

Alec Couros has introduced mentoring as part of the program here. Lisa Lane has also incorporated mentors into her program in the past.

Photo: Google image (Cooper and Wheeler, 2007)

I have shared my views here on mentoring in MOOC.

Development of mentoring skills – one-on-one or one on many, many on many (peer mentoring) and organisation of learning activities (like b) – provision of a mentoring workshop where every participant could volunteer to become a potential mentor of MOOC (present or future).  In other words, peer mentors could be a good starting point for existing experienced educators to provide support to other less experienced educators or novice learners.  For those people who have less experience in teaching and learning, they could be involved in the program in many ways, like working in small groups, sub-networks, or individual projects and activities of their choice, such as blog post – learning or research, twitter – learning or research, FB – learning or research and exploration and research into various tools and technology – mobile learning, and COPs and research etc.  Conduction of actual interviews with educators, professors, and report on such interviews – via videos, blog posts etc. This could be done in wikis or a forum (a space of their choice).  Some initiation and organisation will be necessary to kick start such projects or activities.

Report on the exploration of some of the media or tools – like Amplify, Diigo, Scribe, Google +, Google Documents, wikis and research articles studied etc. could all be done in wikis, forum, or blog posts sharing.

What about your experience in mentoring, in c or x MOOCs, or in COPs?

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