“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
More than 250 years later, Benjamin Franklin’s words still ring true when it comes to the academic relationship between student and mentor. It’s a common misconception that a mentor and teacher are one in the same. While both work with students and grade assignments, teachers focus on instruction and presenting information. A mentor’s role is to facilitate your learning and assist you on the path to earning your degree.
But how might they do that? And why? Glad you asked!
They may ask you to explain your reasoning, provide feedback on your latest assignment or encourage you to pursue a research topic you are passionate about. They inspire and motivate you to take responsibility of your education. And usually, what your mentor teaches you offline, can be just as important as what you learn online.
Mentors can be a valuable networking source.
With their academic background and professional experience, mentors can be the connection you need to advance your career. Dr. Dwayne Hodges, mentor in the School of Applied Science and Technology, recognizes that course mentors are industry practitioners and experts. He believes students should take advantage of their mentors’ knowledge and expertise to cultivate relationships and build a network of contacts for future opportunities. When a student is ready and willing to learn, he makes every effort to help them reach both their course and personal learning objectives, often meeting students in-person to discuss the subject matter over coffee or connect with students on LinkedIn. So maximize every chance to avoid “just being a name” and stand out in your courses, because your mentor could very well provide the best endorsement of your work ethic, skills and strengths.
Mentors empower you to take responsibility of your learning.
When it comes to taking online classes, how you choose to apply that learning is up to you. In other words, no one is telling you that you have to write an essay detailing the circumstances of a historical event or complete a math worksheet of long division problems, characteristic of a childhood education. As an adult, your mentor will provide you with the opportunity to use your existing experience and knowledge, and apply it to a project or assignment. Or you may decide to use your coursework as a chance to develop a work-related interest. In the end, the more active and hands-on your learning experience, the more memorable (and fun) your education will be.
Mentors encourage your critical thinking skills.
“I can guide students to useful information,” says Dr. Mark Kassup, mentor in the Heavin School of Arts and Sciences. “And I can challenge them to move beyond simple answers and partial solutions.” In other words, there’s a reason your mentor asks you to try again; he is fostering your ability to think through questions and offer strong responses, both necessary skills for your professional and career development.
How have your mentors helped shape your academic or career development?