E-mentoring in higher education: A structured literature review and implications for future research

Tinoco-Giraldo, H., Torrecilla Sánchez, E. M., & García-Peñalvo, F. J. (2020). E-mentoring in higher education: A structured literature review and implications for future research. Sustainability, 12(11), 4344. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12114344

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest: 

  • Mentorships are known for helping students stay in school and achieve academic success.
  • Due to the growing prevalence of online or distance learning, e-mentoring has the potential to connect students with mentors in new ways.
  • This study reviews the e-mentoring literature (2009-2019) to better understand a ) how they are assessed and b) the factors needed for them to be successful.
  • Interest in e-mentoring research increased between 2011 and 2019, while interest in new management & learning techniques spiked from 2017 onwards (particularly with coaching and mentoring).
  • Three areas are developing in the utilization of e-mentoring programs in higher education:
    • Learning and development
    • Contribution to the internal processes of higher education institutions
    • Educational methodology
  • E-Mentoring Traits:
    • Involves personalized attention to mentees
    • Serves as a place for the exchange of ideas, proposals, and experiences
    • Mutually beneficial
    • Addresses individual learning needs of the mentees
    • Building confidence in handling challenges and problems
    • Help with advice on professional development and personal growth, as well as networking opportunities
    • Support and facilitate the process of construction of learning of various types
    • Stimulates people’s professional potential based on the transmission of knowledge and learning through experience
    • Motivates and provokes changes in their values, attitudes, and skills
  • The ways E-mentoring programs are assessed depend on the organization and consider functions that participants implement as a mentoring approach.
  • There are some key gaps in the field of e-mentoring research:
    • Conceptual confusion
    • Disagreements on the operational definition
    • Methodological weaknesses
    • Lack of evidence of the characteristics and qualities of an effective e-mentoring
  • It’s crucial for programs to highlight the mentees’ attitudes, values, skills, & capacities throughout the mentoring process and the learning experiences that are integrated into it.
  • Because mentoring can also benefit mentors who develop leadership skills, it is essential for educational leaders in higher education institutions to become involved in implementing e-mentoring programs by guiding mentors & mentees, investing in their own training, and playing a managerial role in the program, providing a global vision, etc.


Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Mentoring in higher education helps learners acclimate to a new academic topic, increases the likelihood of academic success, and reduces attrition. Learners rely on the expertise and experience of mentors to help them graduate in a timely manner and advance on to their career. As online and distance education becomes more pervasive, computer-mediated mentoring allows learners to connect with their mentors in new ways. Research about mentoring in higher education includes investigations into the efficacy of virtual or e-mentoring. We conducted a literature review of research from 2009 to 2019 to identify relevant elements for implementing e-mentoring programs in higher education. Our research revealed that there is a consistent interest in the subject matter within educational research; however, there is a gap on virtual mentoring in higher education for students conducting offsite internships. Our research reviews e-mentoring programs, identifies how these programs are evaluated, identifies factors of successful programs, and establishes a research agenda in areas of e-mentoring programs for students in offsite internships and how they can be structured to achieve the same level of success.

Implications (Reprinted from Conclusions and Future Research)

Only a few authors to date [8,9,20,32,36,42,44] have included challenges and opportunities in e-mentoring as part of their research. Their work often adapts the extensive literature on computer-mediated mentoring to compensate for the lack of research in the field. However, e-mentoring itself has not receive extensive attention, and it is often compared to face-to-face mentoring with the implicit assumption that it is a poor alternative to the traditional model.

During the literature review, the absence or incompleteness of research was identified by the authors. Examples of this included: conceptual confusion [7,13,49] disagreements on operational definitions [46,48,51], methodological weaknesses [20], and lack of evidence of the characteristics and qualities of an effective e-mentoring process [11,14]. A contrast of the drawbacks identified by the authors in the SLR is shown in Table 15.

This SLR is based on the position that e-mentoring is a different technique that should be investigated in its particular context and not compared to in-person mentoring. There is a significant demand in the education field for sharing techniques or methods to develop the potential of students. Current research on e-mentoring has been guided to support aspects such as the phases and criteria for completing the mentoring process, personal development outcomes, the quality of relationships, and the choice of mentor and mentees.

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