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PhD Mentoring Online

As we go through the challenges of life, many of us seek a close relative or friend or a supervisor in our place of work from whom we can ask for advice and moral support. These people become our mentors because they offer us knowledge, insight or wisdom to be able to help us hurdle life’s trials.

In the field of academics whether in the traditional or online setting, our teachers or professors most often act as our mentors. The main functions of mentors are to encourage the exploration of ideas and risk taking, listen to students’ problems, offer appropriate advice and skills training, help students identify and solve problems and confront negative reactions. Mentors who are willing to help their students and share their expertise and experiences with them promote positive a learning attitude. There should also be good communication based on mutual trust and respect which is the key to any effective relationship. And in order to succeed, communication between mentors and students has to be two-way involving appropriate attention and commitment.

Did you know that mentoring online takes on various levels? It is classified into the primary type, secondary, structured vs. informal, active vs. passive, long-term vs. short-term, group and momentary. And there are a number of reasons why mentoring has gone online as well these days. First, face-to-face discussions are not possible due to some conflicts in schedule or locations and secondly, mentoring online can be done anytime and anywhere. Online mentoring also offers many benefits to both students and teachers such as a flexible schedule, no need to travel far, more access to mentors and online or offline communication. Although problems concerning online mentoring may crop up along the way such as miscommunication and technology malfunctions, the benefits far outweigh these threats to online teaching and learning.

A major benefit of online mentoring is the opportunity it provides students to communicate with experts or specialists in their chosen field of study. In reality or outside the Internet world, students would not have easy access to these experts. It is also of utmost importance that both students and mentors understand and internalize their roles for the success of their project. Students must keep in mind that mentoring online is just one way of solving their problems.

Miscommunications and disagreements between students and mentors are unavoidable during the course of the study and may lead to delay. These may be in any aspect and in varying degree of seriousness. A complex problem for a PhD student may only be a minor hitch to a supervisor but on the other hand, a student may feel that he or she is doing well in his tasks while his mentor is already fuming. In any case, both the student and the mentor must take action to solve the issue as soon as possible because whatever it is that both have misunderstood, the situation can disrupt the progress of the project and can even lead to failure if neglected. Should more serious problems occur, you can consult the PhD faculty committees or student advisers of your school.

One way to handle a problem is to take time to think before reacting especially to a mentor’s advice which you feel is unnecessary. Think about what your mentor said, don’t get emotional and ready a comprehensive answer. Writing down your thoughts can also help you in discussing the issue with your supervisor the next time you meet or communicate online. Make sure that you keep the communication open.

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