Online Mentor Performance Reporting

Author Information
Author(s): 
John Sener
Author(s): 
The Sloan Consortium
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Florida State University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

Florida State University's online mentor performance reporting system enables FSU to effectively evaluate the services provided. Online students rate their mentors via webforms for rapid feedback during the semester. The feedback influences management and training of mentors, yielding high satifaction, retention, and success rates at FSU.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

How this practice supports access: Florida State University's Office of Distributed and Distance Learning (ODDL) created a mentor program to provide more effective student support services. The program was created in response to unacceptably high withdrawal rates in distance learning courses due to studentsÂ’ feelings of isolation, and to online faculty fears that there were too many students for them to handle preparation, instruction, monitoring, communication, and evaluation effectively. FSU's ODDL believed that mentors would provide an appropriate level of distance and detachment from the institution, the instructor, and coursemates. Additionally, mentors would be better able to relate to the online learning population with its different demographic characteristics. Mentor duties include:

  • Completing course materials
  • Initiating and maintaining contact with students
  • responding to student communication in a timely manner
  • Facilitating electronic learning and discussion groups
  • Attending to student progress, grading assignments, and reporting grades, and
  • Communicating with course faculty

In 2001, FSU created a tool for students in online courses called the Mentor Performance Report (MPR) designed to seek specific feedback on mentor performance as outlined in the mentor job description.

The form is available to students throughout the semester so that students can report problems at any time. The form includes both open response comment areas and five specific questions related to the mentor support function. ODDL supports mentors by several means. An Implementation Coordinator (IC) communicates regularly with mentors, in the process modeling how mentors are similarly expected to engage with students, the IC also provides referral resources and serves as liaison to student services. There is also ongoing training and development via a Mentor Team Website as well as through audio-conferences, face-to-face meetings and focus groups.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Through Summer, 2003, FSU had delivered 118 courses with mentor support and currently had 156 formally trained mentors supporting four degree completion programs (Computer and Information Sciences, Information Studies, Interdisciplinary Social Science, and Nursing {RN-BSN}). The FSU mentor model is evaluated by the following means:

  • Mentor performance reports
  • Formal and informal faculty evaluations – formal and informal
  • Student evaluations – formal surveys, voluntary telephone interviews
  • Student performance indicators
  • Disseminate plan, processes and results to receive feedback from partners (Florida community colleges) and external audiences

Mentor support allows scalability; FSU has found that having a mentor allows an increase in class size from 20:1 to 25:1. Student feedback on MPRs is overwhelmingly positive on the five specific questions (responsiveness, helpfulness, comfort level, recommendation of mentor to other students, and communication). Student feedback indicates that the two main contributions of mentor support are clarification of materials & processes and encouragement. Student feedback also includes many positive comments about the role(s) that mentors played in students' successful course completion.

Student performance indicators also supply correlative evidence: FSU's online completion rate for mentored courses is 92% (through Summer, 2003) and success rate (= completers earning a "C" grade or better) is 89% for the same period.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

Cost figures are hard to determine precisely since FSU uses variable pay for mentors. Mentor pay ranges from approximately $1800 to $3000 per semester, depending on the academic discipline. Training expenses also varied depending on travel expenses for out-of-town trainees.

References, supporting documents: 

"Online Mentor Performance Reporting," Ninth Sloan-C International Conference, November 2003. Link to powerpoint presentation retrieved February 16, 2004 at http://www.sloan-c.org/conference/proceedings/2003/track1.asp

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Ronald C. Thomas, Jr., Assistant in Distance Learning, Florida State University
Email this contact: 
rthomas@oddl.fsu.edu