Over the last couple of months, in the middle of our project to identify ways to make more effective use of ICT in mentoring, we have entered the new cycle of our mentoring scheme for early career academics. All summer we have been promoting the scheme and recruiting new members. The forms have been drifting in and we have been trying our best to match mentors and mentees. How am I doing this? With a spread sheet and a file full of pieces of paper.
I have one tabbed session for unmatched mentees. When I propose a match I move the piece of paper into the tabbed section labelled ‘Provisional match’. If the match is declined I move the piece of paper back to the ‘unmatched ‘section. If it is accepted I move it to the section labelled ‘Match Accepted’. I can then send out formal matching letters and move the piece of paper to the ‘Formally Matched’ section of the file.
So I am still, despite all our efforts over the summer, in the ‘Paper Age’. However, it is a simple and adaptable system and it works. Up to a point. I have to make handwritten notes all over the sheets so I know when I did what, what the exact circumstances are and the current status of each applicant. This gets out of hand quite quickly, so I also have a spread sheet to keep track of the historical narrative for each applicant. And pretty soon the spread sheet will get out of hand again as well, and then I will be right back where I started from – I NEED A DATABASE!
Fortunately our ‘proof of concept’ database has now been developed into a working model and is at the stage where we can see how well it works in practice. We are now using this bespoke system to capture data on new applicants for the institutional Support Staff Mentoring Scheme, and with a few more tweaks and some data entry, we can migrate the current data for the Early Career Academics’ Mentoring Scheme from analogue to digital.
We have been communicating our experience of mentoring with colleagues across the sector, both in Scotland and more widely (including a workshop session at the Vitae Researcher Development International Conference in September), and have been sharing our belief in the need to develop more effective ways of using ICT in mentoring. Along with our other messages about effective mentoring schemes, we have shown our working model database to several HE organisational, staff and researcher development groups both in Scotland and England. So far it has had a very warm reception, with lots of positive feedback and interest.
More on this and other matters soon....