Through my research on e-mentoring, I came across a paper which I would consider the oldest form of e-mentoring that I’ve read about so far. The paper is written by Mason, Duin and Lammers titled Linking learners: Structuring a mentoring via telecommunications course [1]. The project presented in this paper shows the simplest form of electronic mentoring back in 1994 where the Internet was young.

The aim of the project is to mentor school students by university students to develop and improve their writing skills. Interestingly the authors explain that they will use the term mentor instead of tutor even though tutor was commonly used at that time. It seems that back in early 90’s mentoring was concerned with emotional and psychological support and it is starting to be expanded for career development and skill enhancement as the authors said “we believe that a mentor not only provides emotional and psychological support but also provides direction in career and professional development.[1]

Communication between mentors and students goes through a long cycle. After students finish their assignments on computers using Microsoft word 4.0 they give them to the school’s media specialist who in turn will send it to the university via MACKNOWLEDGE. The students had to send their assignments and keep the format of the text, MACKNOWLEDGE provided this feature. It is a software package that enables sending texts between two computers, school and university computers were connected via telephone lines. At the other side, graduate assistants receive students’ assignments and deliver them to the mentors. When the mentors write their feedback, their feedback goes back through the same cycle. Mentors felt the need to have closer communication with their mentees therefor they asked for a special time to send and receive messages with their mentees directly this is maps to private chat in recent e-mentoring practices. A 75 minutes period of time is reserved everyday for closer communication with mentees. This period of time overlaps with English class as the school.

As we can see that mentoring through schools was not common in 1994 an issue raised during the project. The English class school teacher was uncomfortable and felt threatened with students having more than one perspective of writing process. The teacher felt that having mentors to give their feedback will lessen her authority on students. Nowadays this is not an issue due to the increase awareness of e-mentoring role not only psychologically and emotionally but also on career and educational level.

If you are interested the authors have another paper written about mentoring using telecommunications [2]. More publications on e-mentoring are found in the blog’s publication page.

[1] L. D. Mason, A. H. Duin, and E. Lammers, “Linking learners: Structuring a mentoring via telecommunications course,” Computers and Composition, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 123–135, 1994.
[2]A. H. Duin, E. Lammers, L. D. Mason, and M. F. Graves, “Responding to Ninth-Grade Students via Telecommunications: College Mentor Strategies and Development over Time,” Research in the Teaching of English, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 117–153, 1994.

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