By Dyana Collins, Highland Street Corps Ambassador of Mentoring at the Holyoke Boys & Girls Club and Mass Mentoring Partnership
E-mentoring is a type of mentoring style where mentors and mentees communicate mostly or exclusively by email, social media, instant messaging, or other sorts of online communications. It has a reputation of being more accessible, with statistics showing a higher retention and recruitment rate for matches.
Many mentors and mentees have access to the internet from their school, home, office or local library, making it useful for those with different abilities since it helps to bridge the gaps between communication. For students who speak a different language than their mentors, there are online translation programs for matches to access and make communication easier. E-mentoring also can help matches to stay in touch between visits and strengthen their relationships.
Of course, the style does have some drawbacks, namely the lack of interpersonal interaction for one-on-one matches. Depending on internet communication could loosen the rapport between matches, which could make the relationship not as fulfilling. Another concern is the policies required. How would one judge the appropriateness of the messages being exchanged? How would risks be minimized and contact monitored to ensure youth safety?
There are many factors regarding e-mentoring to consider, and programs should read up on quality best practices if they're looking to run their program solely online or use it as a supplemental tool to enhance match relationships.
For more information, check out http://www.mentoring.org/downloads/mentoring_1316.pdf or the Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring