The Human in the Machine: Reflections on mentoring at the British Open University

Hawkridge, David (2003). The Human in the Machine: Reflections on mentoring at the British Open University. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 11(1) pp. 15–24.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1361126032000054772

Abstract

Mentoring has had a key role in the British Open University’s intricate distance education system for more than 30 years. However, it has changed very substantially as the system’s technology has changed. In this article, after providing some definitions, I review the early history and the changes that have put mentoring online. I describe my own experience as a tutor in the university’s online MA in Open and Distance Education, and explain Salmon’s model for e-moderating (e-mentoring) developed in the university’s Business School. Finally, I reflect on mentoring online today: what is essential for us to understand is how the best of ‘old-fashioned’ mentoring face-to-face can be built into online mentoring together with the best of what the technology enables us to do. Mentors must learn to weave ideas online, with their students, empowering them to do likewise. The mentor, ‘the human in the machine’, is indispensable.

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