The Value of Mentorship for Online Doctoral Students

The Value of Mentorship for Online Doctoral Students

Mentorship is defined as a successful triadic confluence of professional skill, values, and relationships that are mutually beneficial within either an informal or formal mentoring category (Nieto, 2016). Academic mentors are known to play crucial roles in doctoral programs. A crucial role played by academic mentors in the context of doctoral programs is imparting knowledge and skills and enculturating doctoral proteges into a discipline (Kumar & Johnson, 2017). Academic mentors also offer emotional support to their doctoral proteges throughout the dissertation process (Kumar & Johnson, 2017). Mentorship for doctoral students is fast shifting from the traditional approach to online platforms. That there is heightened focus on mentorship for online doctoral students is linked to the high number of professionals in pursuit of terminal degrees as well as a rise in student mobility (Kumar & Coe, 2017). Mentorship for online doctoral students has great value to them, and they encounter problems when they are not assigned mentors based on some of the key lessons learned during the COVID-19 period.

Value of Mentorship for Online Doctoral Students

Mentorship for online doctoral students is all about not only encouraging but also guiding learners through research and academic procedures. Thus, a major component of the doctoral dissertation process is frequent and timely communication (Kumar & Coe, 2017). One of the greatest mentorship values for online doctoral students is that it enables frequent communication between them and mentors (Kumar & Coe, 2017). Online doctoral students often have access to a variety of technologies that they use for various purposes, including during interactions not only with their mentors but also with their dissertation committees (Kumar & Johnson, 2017). Owing to the access to various online technologies, mentorship for online doctoral students entails the organization of monthly or bi-monthly group meetings by the mentors (Kumar & Coe, 2017). Through these frequent group meetings, students can ask questions and discuss any problems arising in the course of the dissertation process with their mentors and peers (Nieto, 2016). Many online doctoral students affirm having access to virtual classrooms where they meet and share their presentations and receive feedback from their mentors (Nieto, 2016). The bottom line is the frequent and timely communication that is of great value to these learners.

The value of mentorship for online doctoral students is also evident in providing moral support to the students throughout the dissertation process. The value of a supportive mentor and the development of a good relationship with the mentor throughout the dissertation process cannot be understated (Makhamreh & Stockley, 2019). Through mentorship, online doctoral students share their interests with their mentors, thus positively contributing to developing good relationships between them (Makhamreh & Stockley, 2019). Through extensive mentorship, online doctoral students feel that their mentors are often available, and they feel comfortable contacting them through phone, email, or other online platforms (Black, 2017). The mentorship is often extensive, with the mentors checking on the students’ progress and challenges. At times, mentors check on the students if they fail to communicate (Kumar & Coe, 2017). All these perspectives of checking on the students point to one of the greatest values of mentorship for online doctoral students; provision of emotional and moral support.

Possible Problem Without Mentors

A possible problem for online doctoral students in the absence of mentors is difficulty when it comes to time management and organization. Throughout the dissertation process, online doctoral students are tasked with designing, implementing, and writing up research on their own (Yob & Crawford, 2012). Time management is a crucial component for the progress of students; thus, they resort to creating schedules of drafts and deadlines to keep them on track (Tinoco-Giraldo, Torrecilla Sánchez, & García-Peñalvo, 2020). However, given the many commitments of most of these students, they lag when it comes to completing tasks without mentors to assist in terms of time management and organization.

Stress Test Provided By COVID-19 and Lessons Learned

COVID-19 has resulted in a significant disruption of scientific research, a crucial component of online doctoral programs. As a result of COVID-19, many countries decided to shut down their economies, and other activities deemed non-essential (“Coronavirus: Mentoring and Advising Practices,” n.d.). Research labs that play an important role in the context of online doctoral programs were considered non-essential work, thus being forced to shut down (Sikora, Ibba, & DiRita, 2020). Consequently, many online doctoral students lack access to research labs, which has hindered completing their programs or studies (Sikora et al., 2020). Although mentorship continues for online doctoral students through various online tools, there are several aspects of research that have been halted, with a good example being research at the bench.

The pandemic has led to several realizations. One of the key lessons learned in light of COVID-19’s disruption of mentorship for online doctoral students is the need to understand and address the impact of such pandemics or disasters on student and faculty success (Mullen, 2020). The focus should be on creating online tools that allow learning and communicating and ensure the provision of ample psychological support to learners (Mullen, 2020). Mullen (2020) argues that another key lesson learned in light of the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of online doctoral programs is the need to revise degree completion recommendations.

Conclusion

Undeniably, mentorship has substantial value for online doctoral students. Some of the values of mentorship for online doctoral students are the frequent communication between the students and mentors and the provision of moral support to the students throughout the dissertation process. A possible problem that a lack of mentors for these students could prompt is a difficulty when it comes to time management and organization. The stress test by COVID-19 is the lack of access to research labs; thus, hindering completion of the doctoral programs. Nevertheless. Key lessons have been learned from the COVID-19 pandemic with regard to mentorship for online doctoral students. These lessons include the need to understand and address the impact of such pandemics or disasters on student and faculty success and create online tools that allow continued smooth studying and the need to revise degree completion recommendations.

 References

Black, R. (2017). E-mentoring the online doctoral student from the dissertation prospectus through dissertation completion. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1109&context=sm_pubs

Coronavirus: Mentoring and Advising Practices. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://grad.ucdavis.edu/resources/coronavirus-updates-and-guidance/covid-19-mentoring-and-advising-practices

Kumar, S., & Coe, C. (2017). Mentoring and student support in online doctoral programs. American Journal of Distance Education31(2), 128-142. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923647.2017.1300464

Kumar, S., & Johnson, M. (2017). Mentoring doctoral students online: Mentor strategies and challenges. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning25(2), 202-222. https://doi.org/10.1080/13611267.2017.1326693

Makhamreh, M. A., & Stockley, D. (2019). Mentorship and well-being. International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, 9(1), 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijmce-02-2019-0013

Mullen, C. A. (2020). Online doctoral mentoring in a pandemic: Help or hindrance to academic progress on dissertations? International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education, https://doi.org/10.1108/ijmce-06-2020-0029

Nieto, A. (2016). Essential e‐mentors’ characteristics for mentoring online doctoral dissertations: Faculty views. Journal of Psychological Issues in Organizational Culture6(4), 35-68. https://doi.org/10.1002/jpoc.21204

Sikora, A., Ibba, M., & DiRita, V. (2020, May 6). Mentoring Graduate Students During & Beyond COVID-19. Retrieved from https://asm.org/Articles/2020/May/Mentoring-Graduate-Students-During-Beyond-COVID-19

Tinoco-Giraldo, H., Torrecilla Sánchez, E. M., & García-Peñalvo, F. J. (2020). E-mentoring in higher education: A Structured literature review and implications for future research. Sustainability12(11), 4344. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12114344

Yob, I., & Crawford, L. (2012). Conceptual framework for mentoring doctoral students. Retrieved from https://abacus.universidadeuropea.es/bitstream/handle/11268/4558/hlrc_2012_2_2_4.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y

Questionnaire

  1. What is your experience working with a mentor?
  • Very Unsatisfied.
  • Very satisfied.
  1. There are some best practices that you can list in your experience working with mentors online through your dissertation process.
  • Yes
  • No
  1. You have faced some challenges when working with a mentor during your doctoral journey.
  • Yes
  • No
  1. Some of the strategies used by online mentors can be considered valuable to online doctoral students during their dissertation process.
  • Yes
  • No
  1. There are several forms of support that students consider valuable during the dissertation process.
  • Yes
  • No
  1. Do you agree that mentorship is effective for online doctoral dissertations?
  • Strongly disagree
  • Disagree
  • Neutral
  • Agree
  • Strongly agree
  1. There are several challenges encountered by online doctoral students with regard to mentorship during the COVID-19 period?
  • Yes
  • No
  1. Mentors should provide support and engage their online doctoral students in the research lab during COVID-19?
  • Yes
  • No
  1. There are specific factors that indicate the effectiveness of mentoring programs for online doctoral students?
  • Yes
  • No
  1. Are you satisfied with how mentoring programs for online doctoral students are evaluated?
  • Very unsatisfied
  • Unsatisfied
  • Neutral
  • Satisfied
  • Very satisfied
  1. Are you satisfied with some of the areas being developed with regard to offering mentorship for online doctoral students?
  • Very unsatisfied
  • Unsatisfied
  • Neutral
  • Satisfied
  • Very satisfied
  1. Are you satisfied with the forms of media or technological tools that are frequently used in offering mentorship for online doctoral students?
  • Very unsatisfied
  • Unsatisfied
  • Neutral
  • Satisfied
  • Very satisfied