In July 2016, the Partnership undertook a virtual mentoring pilot, to apply the best practice methods of the AIME Mentoring model using an innovative delivery mode. Experienced mentors and presenters from the University of Wollongong’s AIME Program collaborated with the research team to design and deliver a virtual mentoring session. There were two stages to the trial, the first involved UOW AIME mentees and presenters testing the modality in a practice session. Based on feedback from stage 1 we were able to deliver stage 2, which involved two mentoring sessions with young people in Ngukurr, Northern Australia, in a live virtual environment.
The virtual mentoring sessions were structured around engaging the young participants in developing content for the recently reinitiated community newspaper, the Ngukurr News. The newspaper is the result of another partnership between the Ngukurr community and the University of Wollongong. The Ngukurr News project was initiated by Professor Kate Senior and is edited by Ngukurr local Daphne Daniels. For further details about the Ngukurr News initiative, see this UOW media release.
The virtual mentoring pilot proved to be very promising. There was a high degree of interest, engagement and enjoyment from the young people who ‘logged in’ to the virtual mentoring sessions that were offered in Ngukurr. Four community members also expressed strong interest in exploring pathways into university, with a follow up virtual consultation session with university staff and graduates initiated as a result. Some young people from Ngukurr talked about this in the Ngukur News that week.
“iSee is pretty cool. Like Facebook, like every other chat line but way cooler. It’s like being in a video game” said Grant Hall … Reflecting on the iSee session, Grant said “The iSee program is about passing on knowledge and learning from each other. It was really cool talking to people. Well you get to know what they know and knowing what others know gives a helping hand” (Ngukurr News, 29 July 2016, p.2)
Participating mentors (students at University of Wollongong, who are experience with AIME mentoring) found the activity personally rewarding. They felt that the virtual delivery mode for mentoring activities performed beyond their expectations and had a great deal of potential for future use, especially in connecting with and expanding opportunities to rural and remote communities.
I found it very rewarding …… I just found that, building those connections and just being able to engage and relate with the young guys in that community, I guess far exceeded my expectations … I just found it was a really cool little connect. (UOW AIME Mentor)
For further insights into the virtual mentoring project, watch our 6 minute documentary.
Through these virtual mentoring pilots we’ve learned much about the strengths and weaknesses of using the iSee software for mentoring young people in remote communities. We are very happy to share these practical ‘tips and tricks’ with practitioners who are interested in exploring this software option for mentoring young people in remote communities. Also, if you would like to further explore the potential and functionality of the software used, visit the iSee VC website.
We look forwarding to publishing on this virtual mentoring project in academic journals and conferences in the near future. And we will keep you informed via this blog.