Transformative online pedagogies call for innovative ways of conceptualizing the online environment and the student, teacher, and peer relationships. In this paper, we focus on how distributed co-mentoring can scaffold both social and knowledge building processes to develop culturally inclusive online learning communities. We critique traditional mentoring relationships, which have often sustained a biased class structure exclusive of diverse populations. We conceptualize co-mentoring drawing from the perspectives of two alternative mentoring theories: (1) feminist postmodern values that bring women and minorities into educational networks, and (2) mentoring mosaic where a diverse range of individuals of different ranks, ages, genders, ethnicities, skills, and experience come together in a non-hierarchical community, blurring distinctions between mentor and mentee to support each other in collaboration. Based on these two perspectives, we define co-mentoring as offering developmental assistance at various points in the growth of a collaborative online group, moving away from the traditional two-person relationship where a more experienced person offers assistance and guides a less experienced person to grow and advance. The expert/novice relationship definition of mentoring is problematic not only from a culturally inclusive point of view, but also from the perspective of the online environment where networked relationships can emerge between persons not bound by power structures, or, local or national cultures. We discuss two case studies of distributed co-mentoring: one, a cross-cultural co-mentoring program between the United States and Sri Lanka in the context of an online faculty development program implemented in Sri Lanka, and the second, a crossborder faculty development program conducted in Sri Lanka between participants from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Mauritius with U.S. co-mentors. Data sources included analysis of transcripts, journal entries and interviews with participants and mentors. In the first case, we found through analysis of computer transcripts six types of co-mentoring roles (social, pedagogical, managerial, technical, collaborative, and inspirational), which facilitated the construction of knowledge and transformed perspectives. In the second case, despite the challenges of cross-border communication, participants learned from fellow co-mentors. In cross-cultural settings, we encourage co-mentors to be cognizant of: (1) mentee needs and characteristics; (2) linguistic difficulties; (3) expectation of direct guidance from mentors; and (4) the importance of providing timely feedback during the initial stages of building a mentoring relationship. We conclude that successful co-mentoring partnerships can be established across cultures if there is mutual respect and willingness to learn from each other.
Proceedings of the 2019 ICDE World Conference on Online Learning
co-mentoring, e-mentoring, learning communities, cultural inclusivity, international collaboration, Wisdom Communities Design Framework
Gunawardena, C., Jayatilleke, G., Kulasekara, G. & Kumarasinha, M. (2020). Distributed Co-Mentoring as a Means to Develop Culturally Inclusive Online Learning Communities. In M. Brown, M. Nic Giolla Mhichil, E. Beirne, & E. Costello (eds.), Proceedings of the 2019 ICDE World Conference on Online Learning, Volume 1, (pp. 389-400). Dublin, Ireland: Dublin City University, http://dx.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3804014
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