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What is "mentored" teaching and learning?
Jim Janossy, DePaul University

Mentored teaching provides individualized help in learning the subject matter, much as a guide leads you on a "tour" composed of just one person (you) through a place new to you that you're exploring. Your guide responds to your individual questions. If you are not happy with the guide's explanation or response to a question you have--let's say you don't understand what he/she has just explained--you aren't in some way penalized; your question and your questioning process continues until you feel that you fully understand. And your questions are not made in public where you may feel intimidated by others present--your pace of learning, and what it involves, is entirely between you and your personal guide, since you are the only one on the tour. The focus is on learning: your learning.

What Mentored Teaching IS NOT
Let's see how mentored teaching is different from "traditional" classroom teaching by first recapping how traditional teaching is conducted. Typically a traditional classroom course provides lectures and a textbook. It's assumed that you will learn from what is said to the class in the classroom and from the assigned reading. If you ask a question, it may be answered, or perhaps not. Questions are asked in the presence of everyone else in the class, which can be intimidating because some of those other learners may make you feel silly for asking the question. Soon during the course there is a "quiz" which is a form of "assessment"... it's one of several graded items to "assess" your learning. If you don't do well on the quiz, tough luck... you are told "do better next time!" Pretty much the same goes for each graded assignment, be it a "paper" or "project". You get one chance on each assignment and must live with each score you receive. The sum total of your graded item scores, plus your scores on formal scheduled tests such as a midterm and final exam, determine your grade, which presumably indicates your level of understanding. Period. THIS IS NOT HOW MENTORED TEACHING WORKS! THANK GOD THAT ONLINE SERVICES NOW MAKE IT POSSIBLE TO DO MUCH BETTER THAN THIS!

What Mentored Fully Online Teaching IS
In mentored teaching, every "quiz" is an online learning exercise that is repeatable throughout the entire term. Yes, it's scored, but each exercise is available all during the term, and each exercise is fully repeatable--you can do each over again to improve your score. Each such learning exercise is based entirely on the lectures and readings.The same repeatability goes for all other assignments. Each exercise or assignment is a learning experience in which you try your best, submit your work, then receive timely detailed individual feedback from the instructor, and you can try the assignment again. And again, if desired. Without limit. Your learning process is between you and the instructor, much like a tutor. (In fact, this mirrors the kind of learning that was conducted in ancient times between a learned person and a student, before events of the Middle Ages led to the invention of the classroom...  but that is a storyin itself!)

Mentored online teaching also has other features that make it much different from--and in my experience much more effective than--traditional classroom teaching for many subjects:
  • All class lectures are available all the time. They are posted for public viewing on YouTube and they are there now. Yes, they are accessible without any login, on any device you choose: computer, laptop, or cell phone. Students view each lecture when it is personally convenient and can review each as many times as desired. In fact nothing in the course is hidden behind a login--the course web site itself is open all the time. In addition to general lectures, specific online tutorials are available for just about every page of the course workbook, which the instructor has written and provides free for download. The workbook is the vehicle by which the instructor designed the course. The course workbook reveals this design to you; nothing is hidden until "later." Download the workbook free from the course web site.
  • Each student is able to set their own scheduled due date for the modules of work (typically a course is divided into four modules). Each student can change their schedule if needed, anytime up to the withdrawal date for the course; up to two schedule changes during the term. Stuff happens. Whatever stuff comes up to affect you life during the course is not a cause for panic. 
  • Each student is provided with an individual grade listing and feedback sheet, which accumulates all feedback from the instructor. An updated copy of the student's grade listing is sent to the student each time his or her work is graded. There is no "scavenger hunt" on a complex online system in order to locate your scores and the feedback provided. There is no artificial limit on the amount of feedback the instructor can provide. And, as indicated above, each assignment can be revised and resubmitted based on the feedback, and will be regraded--and the score on any regrade replaces the original score for the item of work. In this form of instruction you need never be penalized for an initial low score... you can try again and raise the score, all the way to as high as 100%! 
  • The instructor is available for phone or online video help from 9 AM to 9PM every day of the week. Or by schedule, if desired. 
The entire framework of online mentored teaching and learning is made possible by the advances made in the last 30 years in electronic communication, computers, and the internet. Online mentored teaching takes advantage of these advances in defining a mode of pedagogy that overcomes the limitations and restrictions of "classroom" learning. Online mentored teaching is more flexible, responsive, and conducive to learning--and for many students, much less stressful--than what the typical classroom can provide. Online mentored teaching better fits into the lives of today's busy students, and, where applicable, it reduces the need for commuting to a classroom simply to hear one-time lectures!

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