HEA E-mentoring project FINAL short report


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This is the final short report for the HEA funded E-mentoring project. It gives links to additional project resources.

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HEA E-mentoring project FINAL short report

  1. 1. HEA Teaching Development Grants Department Interim Report Template Page 1 of 10Teaching Development GrantDepartmental Grant SchemeProject Details:Project Title Improving Student Employability Through E-MentoringProject Lead Professor Simon AustinInstitution Loughborough UniversityEmail address s.a.austin@lboro.ac.ukProject SummaryPlease provide a short summary (max 350 words) on the progress ofyour project to date, for dissemination through the HEA websiteWhilst engineering and construction students benefit from some of the bestemployment rates by subject, concerns raised by students concerningemployability led Loughborough University‟s School of Civil and BuildingEngineering to undertake a Higher Education Academy funded project toinvestigate the potential of e-mentoring programmes to support students indeveloping skills for employability.The research grant provided the opportunity and resources to examine howHEIs can address issues of employability including those associated with theincreasing numbers of international students who often lack any workexperience in industry.Those examining the problems of employabilityamongst recent graduates have argued that employability is not simply aboutfinding employment, or even finding the right job, but rather about skills andabout developing as an individual The unique relationship with an industrymentor developed during the mentoring process has the potential to addressemployability in a much wider perspective than simply developing skills toattain employment:each individual student‟s experience is different, as are theenvironmental factors that contribute to a student‟s ability to easily gain suchskills, or indeed adapt to the working environment. E-mentoring,nevertheless,provides an easy and immediate point of contact for questions about careerdevelopment .The e-mentoring experience provides a unique time and placefor mentees to think about employability: a time and place to be able todiscuss with someone experienced in their field, not only the practical skillsthat may help them find a job, but to explore how they might begin to live the
  2. 2. HEA Teaching Development Grants Department Interim Report Template Page 2 of 10lives they value. This a less limiting definition of employabilitybut one thatilluminates the unique benefit that e- mentoring offers students in terms ofemployability.The objectives of the project were to:1. examine the changing skills needed by graduates joining Industry;2. explore the employment benefits of a cross-section of existing e-mentoring schemes for undergraduate and postgraduate students;3. examine the skills developed through e-mentoring and industry benefits;4. collectively design curriculum changes and e-mentoring processes, andsustainable implementation plans for undergraduate and graduateprogrammes at Loughborough University;5. develop a tool-kit for the adoption of e-mentoring by other Universitiesand other disciplines.The project‟sfull report examines how these objectives were achieved and howe-mentoring can provide a highly beneficial opportunity to gain knowledge ofthe industry and to develop skills. For international students, the e-mentoringexperience also gives them an opportunity to come to terms with differentworking practices and working cultures. Moreover, the development ofintercultural competences within the mentoring relationship is mutuallybeneficial: mentors also have the opportunity to build upon their knowledgeand skills and develop their own intercultural competences.Milestones and deliverables:Please outline the milestones and deliverables that have been metagainst the timescale (max 1000 words)Please include:o activites that have been completed in the period covered by thisreporto any changes or additions to the original activities/milestonesoutlined in the original project plan, including the reasons forthese changesThe milestones remained the same thought the programme, with only someslight modifications to the timing of the programme in the later stages due tothe project extension.Review of employers’ needs. This was carried out in the early stages of theprogramme using a literature review. It was completed in January2012;however, as with many literature reviews, research continued throughoutthe programme. The final project report charts findings during this period of
  3. 3. HEA Teaching Development Grants Department Interim Report Template Page 3 of 10the project.Recruitment of the first set of mentees and mentors. The recruitment ofmentees and mentors was carried out as scheduled, with the launch event onthe 22nd February. Generating interest from the student bodywas not as easyas anticipated. With the tight schedule and limited numbers,matching basedon a similarity of discipline and study/research theme was not as good as theresearch team would have liked.Training session at the university and profile matching of participants,seeking to establish a representative sample in terms of age, gender andorigin.The training session was carried out with the assistance of Michele Zalaand the Careers team for Pilot 1 and in Pilot 2 the team decided on aprogramme with less time spent on training and more on meetings. Asalready stated, profile matching was difficult when numbers were limited andwhilst the criteria remained the same in the two pilots, refinements to therecruitment questionnaire (the basis for selection) in pilot 2 meant the teamplaced first priority on any wishes expressed by the mentor or mentee for thelatter programme.Pre-scheme awareness questionnaire and interviews with a sample ofmentees and mentors. This milestone was incorporated into the planning ofthe recruitment questionnaire, which requested information aboutexpectations of mentoring. A session was also carried out by Michele Zala inthe pilot 1 launch event to calrify the expectations of participants.State-of-the-art review of formal industrial mentoring schemes in HEincluding e-mentoring. [June 2012] This stage of the programme wascarried out by William Bancroft as part of his summer internship and final yeardissertation. The results of this literature review are contained inthe full reportdocument.Reflective narratives of mentors and mentees describing the benefits ofand improvement for engagement. [July 2012] Reflective narratives weresought by the research team in interview. Interim online questionnaire andindividual telephone interviews for both pilots were a realistic and achievableapproach to collecting data from mentors, many of whom did not have thetime to attend the university or to spend with a researcher invited to theirwork environment. However, video interviews were also carried out in the“cafe event” at the end of pilot 2 of the project and are published on thewebsite.Evaluation of the Co-Tutor software to log engagement. [September2012] This is one of the milestones in the project that, although set in place,failed completely to engage the mentors and no data was obtained in the firstpilot from the university software. This was abandoned as an approach for thesecond pilot. The researchers concluded from the trial of this software thatboth technical difficulties of logging on to the software and the limited time
  4. 4. HEA Teaching Development Grants Department Interim Report Template Page 4 of 10of mentors to commit to a diary meant that it was unlikely that any other formof diary data collection would be possible from the mentors. In the secondpilot the student intern trialled a paper diary for the mentees to record theirexperiences.Second set of mentors and mentees selected and trained. [October 2012]The second set of mentors and mentees was selected and the process wasrefined slightly from the first pilot. The online recruitment questionnaire wasextended with some questions added to help further in matching thementor/mentee partners. Researchers also returned to the ICE regionalrepresentative for his support in recruiting local young engineers to theprogramme. This proved so successful that the programme wasoversubscribed by 100%. The researchers were surprised, however, by the lowinterest of students in the programme.Videos of mentors and mentees reflecting on their experiences uploadedto the project website. [February 2013] Video interviews were carried out inthe final “café event” for pilot 2 and are available on the website.Results of both the programmes will be evaluated and disseminated asoutlined above, including preparing journal papers and attendingconferences to present the results.At this stage in the research programme the deadlines were extended. Theevaluation and analysis stage of the programme was extended to include theintern‟s dissertation research work.Final report circulated to all UK HEIs. [March 2013] This stage was alsoextended and the final report was completed in May 2013.Co-research and design group with mentees and student programmepresident explore benefits of e-mentoring and work to refine and roll outthe scheme across the engineering schools. Proposals presented to theSchool and University Directors of Teaching and Learning to develop thecurriculum to meet the changing skills needed for employability andspecific needs of international students. [April 2013] The co-research andco-design group with mentees and the student programme president wascarried out in the cafe event, which was verysuccessful and was hosted by theCentre for Engineering and Design Education well ahead of the programme,on the 25th February. Results of these workshops are available in the fullproject report also available on the website.OutputsAre there any outputs that have already been achieved or emerginglessons that can be shared with colleagues (max 500 words)?The outputs for the project include:
  5. 5. HEA Teaching Development Grants Department Interim Report Template Page 5 of 101. A project website to provide guidance to disseminatefindings andoutputs and to host the “tool-kit” for others to adopt an e-mentoringprogramme.2. Andetailedpublication about the project in the form of a final reportwhichdescribes research methods, experiences, lessons learned and theresulting effectivepractice.3. Case studies of effective mentoring from perspectives of studentandindustry mentor which have been uploaded to YouTube.4. Publications in an academic journal and to relevant academic audiencesat conferences.The project website is hosted at http://www.workinsight.info. It providesinformation about the pilot, the programme methods and results. It also offersother Universities and Departments who may wish to run an e-mentoringprogramme, a template in the form of a “tool-kit” together with basic hostingof future schemes that can capture expressions of interest from potentialmentors and mentees.The overview publication available on the project website – the full report -charts the development of the project, the methods adopted and providesevidence of the value of e-mentoring schemes within the engineering subjectdiscipline to improve employability both for UK and international students.Case studies of effective mentoring, from the prespectives of student menteeand mentor, have been published on the project website in the form ofVoxPop style YouTube published short interviews.A number of presentations from the research project have already takenplace.These include:Wheeler, A., Austin, S. and Glass, J. (2013) “E-mentoring as a uniqueeducational opportunity to improve graduate employmentopportunities” Higher Education Academy 9th Annual Conference:Powerful Partnerships, defining the learning experience. The Universityof Warwick 3rd – 4th July (forthcoming).Wheeler, A., Austin, S. and Glass, J. (2012) “E-mentoring foremployability” International Conference on Innovation, Practice andResearch in Engineering Education (EE2012) Coventry University, 18th –20th September. Available at:http://cede.lboro.ac.uk/ee2012/papers/ee2012_submission_201_gp.pdf[last accessed 26th April 2012]. A PowerPoint presentation preparedfor the conference is also available on Slideshare at:http://www.slideshare.net/AndreaWheeler1/engineering-education-2012-conference-coventry [last accessed 27th April 2013]
  6. 6. HEA Teaching Development Grants Department Interim Report Template Page 6 of 10A journal publicationis being prepared to be submitted to theICE journalManagament, Procurement &Law.Thefullreport, prepared in conclusion to theproject, will be sent to all HEIs and this will contain links to the website andtoolkit, and recommended processes and supporting technologies for carryingout an e-mentoring programme.ImpactsPlease identify the immediate and expected impacts of the work on thestudent learning experience (max500 words), e.g.o What kind of difference has your project made in yourinstitution?o How has the wider community benefitted from your project?o What evidence do you have for this?o How has your project changed the attitude of yourstakeholders?The project has made a significant difference within the Institution. Studentsengaged in both pilots have clearly articulatedthe benefits they experienced.The Steering Committee members from the Career Service of the University(who themselves run mentoring programmes) have commented on theglowing success of the project and the potential benefits of establishing arelationship as good as any face-to-face mentoring programme without theadministrative burden of facilitating meetings. Bothpilot schemes receivedhigh praise from stakeholders and their representatatives from the SteeringCommittee. Menteesreported benefits in terms of information received,coaching and networking opportunities.Industry bodies representing youngengineers, such as the ICE, have been particularly supportive of theproject.Very early on in the project, the President of the Institution of CivilEngineering (ICE), Richard Coackley,cited the HEA e-mentoring project whilstgiving a presentation to engineering students within the School. He stated:“The e-mentoring pilot scheme, headed by Professor Simon Austin, linksstudents with construction professionals according to interest and career path toprovide the principles of traditional mentoring but exploiting the free andreadily available technologies of Skype, social media and e-mail to foster theawareness of professional practice and the needs of employers. This is anexcellent example of harnessing the energy: with mentors using their time andenergy to harness and refine the energy of their mentees providing them withimportant experience of industry”(Richard Coackley, 20th April 2012,Loughborough University School of Civil and Building Engineering).An article was recently published in the ICE‟s international weekly journal, NewCivil Engineer on 16 May 2013, entitled „How the ICE can build on ThomasTelford‟s belief in mentoring: the internet opens up new ways to help
  7. 7. HEA Teaching Development Grants Department Interim Report Template Page 7 of 10members develop our wealth of engineering talent. Written by MalcolmJackson, the Regional Training Officer, it stresses the virtues of mentoring as acore professional duty and extoles the potential of eMentoring based on thefindings of the HEA project.In the last week, the Municipal Expert Panel of the ICE have also requestedcopies of the project findings and reports to support their own developmentof an e-mentoring programme entitled: Passing knowledgeand experience to anew generation of municipal practitioners. We are currently in dialogues as tohow to best support them.The research team have also been invitedas gueststo Moscow State Technical University(Bauman University) to present thefindings of the project at a special seminar day: “The project approach in thepreparation of engineers – sharing the experience of LoughboroughUniversity, UK” Their own interest in the project is in exploring tools by whichthe University can prepare engineers for employment in Russian industry.The interest of the ICE, of other University academics and of InternationalUniversities in the project, is due to the perceived ease and immediacy ofdeveloping student relationships with industry, and the subsequent reductionin administrative workload. These benefits were demonstrated also ininterviews with mentors.DisseminationPlease give details of any dissemination activites that have occurredduring the reporting period (max 500 words)The team have maximised dissemination of research findings through acombinationof mechanisms to address a range of audiences. These have included:A variety of project websites that were regularly updated and includecontributions frommentees and mentors, lecture captures, PowerPointpresentations, YouTube videos and programmes from launch and cafeevent days.An initial website was set up as a Google site at:https://sites.google.com/a/lboro.ac.uk/e-mentoring-in-engineering/[accessed 26th April 2013] simply for ease and immediacy. This siteacted as a repository for resources for the first 9 months of the projectand is maintained as an historical record.The nature of Google Docs has meant that the site worked to facilitaterecruitment and also, in part, to collect initial research data fromresearch participants (mentors and mentees) to assist in the selectionprocess. For example, a web questionnaire was set up using theGoogle Docs tools that allowed potential participants to submit
  8. 8. HEA Teaching Development Grants Department Interim Report Template Page 8 of 10information that was used to match the pairs in terms of workexperience and academic subject area. This website is active andinformation from Pilot 1 is available on this site including videocaptures from the Pilot 1 launch event on 22nd February 2012. (Theprogramme for this event is available at:https://sites.google.com/a/lboro.ac.uk/e-mentoring-in-engineering/launch-event).A different website was subsequently set up for Pilot 2 hosted by theCentre for Engineering and Design Education (CEDE) on their server at:http://cede.lboro.ac.uk/ementoring [accessed 26th April 2013].A MendeleyGroup was also established at:http://www.mendeley.com/groups/2950901/e-mentoring-research-publications/ [last accessed 26th April 2013] entitled “E-mentoringResearch Publications”. Furthermore, the bibliographic resources forthe project are available at this address.In the data collection phases of Pilot 2 video interviews were collectedand these are also available on the project coordinators‟ YouTubechannel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/andreaswheeler.Going forward, the team are building a „post-project‟ website athttp://www.workinsight.info which will be the initial point of referencefor anyone interested in the work. It is using „Work Insight‟ as thebrand.A full report published on the project website extensively documentingthe pilot programmes, the methods adopted and the findings.Outputs from the project as completed including the full final reportare also available at: http://eden-share.lboro.ac.uk/id/item/5 [lastaccessed 26th April 2013]A journal paper to inform researchers and HE practitioners of theresearch findings and outcomes of the project.Conference presentations, including the Engineering Education 2012conference HEA conference – Powerful Partnerships,stimulating interestacross thesector in both universities and industry.The research teamhave also been invited as guests to Moscow State Technical University(Bauman University) to present “The project approach in thepreparation of engineers – sharing the experience of LoughboroughUniversity, UK” Conference presentations have been uploaded toSlideshare.The development of a tool-kit to be utilitsed by leadership teams ofHEEngineering Schools for the adoption of e-mentoringprogrammes.The toolkit demanded a website that could showcase theproject results and case studies and provide a template for otherdepartments within the University to take up the structured
  9. 9. HEA Teaching Development Grants Department Interim Report Template Page 9 of 10programme. An IT website developer and graphic artist wereemployed to complete this. The address of this website is:http://www.workinsight.infoIssues and challengesPlease report on any issues or problems that have impacted on thedevelopment and implementation of the project during the reportingperiod (max500 words).Whilst HEI‟s can be the best placed organisations to provide employabilitysupport to students, e-mentoring presents an effective tool for students tobegin to develop relationships with industry and to gain information aboutthat industry, as well as an opportunity to review their own employment skills.The importance of mentees “driving” the relationship, setting goals andobjectives,cannot be underestimated, as it is in this way that the unique,tailored opportunity can be fulfilled. Nevertheless, the study also identified anumber ofissues and challenges concerning the ability of e-mentoringprograms to improve student employability and to address the problems ofinternationalisation:1. Matching mentor and mentee pairs. This may be addressed in manydifferent ways, but collecting a variety of information about each potentialparticipant is vital. However, success depends wholly on the “pool” ofcandidates available and hence on recruitment (which was not as good aswe would have liked from students).2. Recruitment of mentors. This was highly successful through theprofessional body, The Institution of Civil Engineers. The endorsement ofthe local representative and Steering Committee member, MalcolmJackson, encouraged the interest of potential candidates.3. Recruitment of mentees. This was less successful. Ways in which toencourage students to participate are still needed and strategies mayinclude the inclusion of the programme in a university-wide and careersservice led employability award for students.4. Training was described as an important issue by those on the SteeringCommittee (in particular the Careers Service) who had already carried outmentoring programmes. The research team acknowledged this at the initialevent/launch event. Pilots 1 and 2,however, differed as it was decided thatthe “training” for the launch event in Pilot 2 would be less formal, withmore time in the programme for participants to meet in person. Hence,whilst information was transmitted in terms of “training”, reference wasgiven to the online lecture capture materials from the first event shouldthey be needed. This more informal structure worked well and the time toengage with mentors and mentees was cited as important in establishingan initial relationship by mentors.
  10. 10. HEA Teaching Development Grants Department Interim Report Template Page 10 of 105. Establishing an initial relationship. It was found that some studentsrequired some help with establishing the initial relationship and findingissues to talk about. This could be described as a matter of confidence,motivation or simply reflect the need for some assistance in terms of “toptips” (what to talk about and how to plan a session). Analysis of literaturesuggests that the mentoring relationship takes some months to developand after 6 months, mentee/mentor pairs may only be at the initial stagesof relationship development.6. Maintaining the good will of mentors. The failure of mentor/menteerelationships does run the risk that relationships to local engineeringcompanies could be damaged; however the training sessions address theseissues where both mentor and mentee expectations of the programmewere explored.