ONLINE MENTORING OF NEW ACADEMIC STAFF DURING TIMES OF TRANSFORMATION AND COVID 19: OPPORTUNITIES AND THREATS IN A DISTANCE EDUCATION ENVIRONMENT
University of South Africa (SOUTH AFRICA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 14th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 8-9 November, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Abstract:In the wake of COVID-19 in 2020 many have witnessed how higher education institutions around the world had to change the way they operate especially in developing countries. The outbreak brought much uncertainty as students and their teachers were suddenly not very sure what the future held and several classes had to be discontinued and programs suspended. Countless campuses were not prepared for the abrupt changes enforced by the pandemic because online novel teaching systems were not known to students and staff. In this quagmire were the new university teaching staff who sought to enhance their careers. Besides decolonization, South African higher education institutions have been debating ways of preparing their campuses for a changing world. In fact, people have witnessed a form of institutional isomorphism where organization tend to move towards homogeneity especially in face of technology. This case study examines the online mentoring of new staff members at the University of South Africa (UNISA). Eight new members of teaching staff were interviewed and observed over ZOOM in a period of six months. Four mentors were involved and each worked with two mentees. The mentors employed various strategies to instill a sense of innovation and creativity whist mentoring at a distance. Utilizing both formative and summative assessments the mentoring dyads followed a transformative cyclical model that reflects the changing roles in higher education institutions that seek to accommodate globalization, varied skills and professional development as well as using heutagogical models. Furthermore, the mentoring model demonstrated how the mentees needed to conceptualize the usage of ecology of knowledges when they intellectualize teaching and learning. The mentoring process included several transformative strategies which included the incorporation of decolonization of scholarship and research at a transforming institution. There was also an exploration of new roles in higher education institutions that incorporated perceiving students as co-teachers and co-curriculum developers. The conclusions demonstrate that although the pandemic brought with it crises in the society in general, it also brought creative ways and innovative strategies to overcome hindrances brought by adversity. The mentor-mentee relationship lacked the authenticity of the traditional mentoring but the rapport created was critical in upholding trust, commitment and cooperation. It is clear that beyond COVID-19, mentors and their mentees will not be hindered by time and space because technology can be maximized to develop new staff all the time. Although there were numerous challenges, effective mentors will be able to utilize technology in building fellow staff members. Furthermore, conscientious mentees who are learners will be able to continuously professionally develop their expertise throughout the year on and off the actual workplace. Finally, the online mentoring proved to be a process of mutual learning for the mentors and their mentees.
Keywords: Decolonization, Distance education, Mentoring, New Technologies, Transformation.