What is the difference between online and face-to-face mentoring? Why choose online?
Mentoring gives young people the chance to have one-to-one support, advice and guidance from a volunteer who is independent from their ordinary life.
Ementoring has exactly the same aims, but it allows mentors and mentees to keep in touch by having conversations online, through a website. The mentoring relationship is facilitated by a safe and stimulating web-based environment that allows mentors and mentees to:
Discuss news items
Access educational and career resources.
Why choose ementoring?
Many people find it difficult to have a face-to-face mentoring relationship. It might be that your mentoring partner lives far away, or that one or both of you are too busy for regular meetings. With an online mentor, you can log on whenever you like, and choose when and how often you get in touch with each other.
Can’t we just email each other?
Good question. There are many e-mentoring schemes which will encourage mentors and mentees to swap email addresses and communicate via email. However, by using an online portal you get loads of other benefits alongside the mentoring.
Get your questions answered! Most online mentoring sites come with a library. At least, the good ones do! This means that if you are online and your mentor isn’t available, or if your mentor can’t help you with the answer to a question, you should be able to find something to help you in the library. A good example of this is BrightKnowledge – an ementoring library written for 14-18 year olds.
Build your skills. Chatting to someone online can boost your IT skills and literacy. Not to mention the fact that many ementoring programs also provide games and activities for you to work through with a mentor.
Safety! This is, of course, the most important reason for using a website rather than an email-based ementoring programme. It’s safer for the mentees, as conversations can be moderated and monitored, filtered words picked up and flagged, and mentors held from knowing any personal details that you might not want them to see.
It is also safer for the mentors, as there is a record of every conversation that has happened within the relationship, and accusations of inappropriate behaviour can be properly investigated. It’s sad to think that this happens, but there is always a risk in relationships which involve strangers, particularly if one of them is young or vulnerable.
Does ementoring work?
Depending on the aims of the program, ementoring can prove to be a very effective tool. It is extremely useful for supporting people to achieve specific goals, as the mentees can work through targeted activities with their mentor. Not much solid research has been done on this topic, although there is good discussion of it, and examination of the effects of ementoring, on the Brightside Trustwebsite. The Brightside Trust are a UK-based charity running ementoring projects for disadvantaged young people.