Giving Compass’ Take:
• The Christensen Institute interviews Brightside, a UK based organization that has one of the top online mentoring models, to discuss the advantages of this practice.
• What are some disadvantages of following a model like this? Is technology-based mentoring the most effective in terms of access?
• In order to gauge success in the mentoring field, look at how other models work.
Online mentoring may sound like an oxymoron. Can an online connection really can stand up to enduring face-to-face relationships we enjoy with close mentors? Indeed, there’s scant evidence to suggest that an online mentor is better than a face-to-face mentor.
The upside of online mentoring is its unique ability to fill gaps in students’ networks. Rather than attempting to replace strong relationships in students’ analog lives, these models promise to offer new online connections in circumstances where students’ current alternative is nothing at all.
Using technology, online mentoring programs can allow students who otherwise might never meet an engineer or lawyer to connect with working professionals. They can fill advice gaps for those students with shockingly limited access to college guidance in high school.
Among those providers opening up access to new relationships is Brightside, a nonprofit, UK-based online mentoring organization. Founded in 2003, Brightside is one of the largest online mentoring models, working with 10,000 young people across the UK every year.
Building social capital – or trusted relationships – lies at the heart of Brightside’s service model. Our organization started 15 years ago from a conviction that having a network of people to ask for informal advice and support would give young people knowledge and confidence about post-school pathways into higher education and careers.
There are a number of advantages:
- First and fundamentally, geography is no barrier. Online is a great way of connecting people with role models and opportunities beyond their immediate community.
- Second, online mentoring (through written interactions) is cost-effective and flexible.
- Third, online mentoring takes away some of the power dynamics that can occur in face-to-face relationships.
- And finally, online allows for straightforward data capture on the interactions between mentor and mentee – number of messages; conversation length; topics covered.
Read more about online mentoring by Julia Freeland Fisher at The Christensen Institute.
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