Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology

Volume 28(2) Spring / printemps, 2002

Research Reports / Rapports de recherche

Heather Kanuka
Athabasca University

Butler, T. & Chao, T. (2001). Partners for Change. Students as effective technology mentors. Active Learning in Higher education, 2(2), 101-113.

Many, if not most, higher education institutions across the globe are faced with pressures to integrate technology into their teaching programs. In an effort to confront this challenge, the Arts Technologies for Learning Centre at the University of Alberta has implemented a model that enables students to support teaching staff by taking the role of a technology mentor. In an effort to remove several barriers to effective technology integration that the Faculty of Arts was encountering (such as a lack of time, resources and skills) a mentoring model between the teaching staff and students with good technology skills was implemented. In this student-teaching staff partnership model, the student mentor acts as a guide, advisor and support for teaching staff from initial concept to the design and development of technology components of a course. While the emphasis of the mentoring partnership was to develop an instructor's self-sufficiency over the course of a project, student mentors sometimes took on the role of production specialist.

The results of this study indicate that this kind of one-on-one mentoring model can benefit both instructors and students. The outcomes of this study state that a student mentoring model raised awareness of the use of instructional technology, and provided ongoing and timely support for the instructors. The student mentors reported the experience contributed to both their personal and professional growth. Finally, the results of this study also indicate that a student mentoring model can benefit the offering organization. The researchers in this study reported that the student mentor model promoted technology integration from the bottom up and amalgamated the change into their faculty's culture.

The outcomes of this study also indicate that there are challenges with this model. First, the student mentor model did not promote the use of technology across all of the teaching staff. Second, there was a high turnover rate with the student mentors. Because the student mentors were from their own disciplines, they required training in the theories and practices of instructional technology. Obviously a high turnover rate is inevitable with students as they graduate; however, this makes the continuous training of student mentors rather onerous for the department.

While there is much value in exploring the use of a student mentor model for technology integration and faculty development, this particular study does not break new ground in the theory and practice of student mentoring, or faculty development with respect to technology integration and/or implementation. The main reason for this is that the study seemed not to be grounded in theory and/or prior research on student-teacher mentoring for technology integration. In particular, while the study reports on the literature in mentoring from authors in adult and higher education, it did not report on the literature on the technology integration in higher education literature. Building on the prior research in the area of technology integration in higher education and using a theoretical framework would have provided much strength to the study and made the results more meaningful. In addition to this, the article is very vague in the reporting of the methods used for this study. The reader is only provided with one sentence in the outcome section that a campus-wide survey, interviews, and focus groups were conducted _ and then in the conclusions the researchers also state they used anecdotal evidence. No description is provided on the population sampled, or why these methods were used. Nevertheless, sharing this kind of student-faculty mentoring is important for other higher educators to examine and should be considered of value in this regard.

ISSN: 1499-6685