Inspire e-Mentoring enables students to explore pathways, understandings and aspirations in learning and career choices
Flinders University’s Inspire Mentor Program has been raising the aspirations of children and young people from LSES communities for 10 years. The Inspire e-mentoring program, which commenced in 2011, now extends mentoring relationships to students in rural and regional Australia with the aim of raising aspirations and considering pathways to higher education.
Flinders University partnered with the Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) in the delivery of e-mentoring for secondary students from rural and regional locations in South Australia who have the potential to undertake tertiary studies, but are at risk of disengaging with education. Inspire e-mentoring enables students to explore learning pathways with current undergraduate and post-graduate e-mentors engaged in the tertiary environment. This connection is powerful in developing the understandings and aspirations of students considering their learning and career choices.
Inspire e-mentoring uses Saba Centra 7, an online learning platform, to provide a safe and secure environment for mentors and mentees to communicate. E-mentoring sessions are monitored and supported by DECD project staff, ensuring a safe and productive relationship for mentees and mentors. Inspire e-mentoring culminates annually with a visit to the Flinders University campus for mentees to experience life as a university student, participate in on-campus activities, and meet and interact with their mentors.
Inspire e-mentoring’s main objectives include:
- providing access to academic and social/emotional support for secondary school students disadvantaged by remoteness and/or distance, including raising aspirations amongst these secondary students to attend university
- working collaboratively with internal and external stakeholders to develop strategies aimed at increasing the number of students from LSES backgrounds studying at university and raising aspirations for participation in higher education.
Inspire e-mentoring is a jointly funded collaboration between Flinders University and the DECD. Funding is via the HEPPP, departmental funding through the DECD Social Inclusion Unit, and through individual participating secondary schools. Funding is used to support the growth of relationships with the DECD and participating schools, ensure a safe and secure program through comprehensive session monitoring, and provide mentees with an interactive university experience.
The success of Inspire e-mentoring is measured by:
- increases in successful mentor/mentee matches
- increases in participating schools
- retention and continued engagement of mentees with their education.
Inspire e-mentoring was piloted in 2011, consisting of three schools and 30 students. The 2012/13 expansion has seen a:
- 176 per cent increase in student participation
- 166 per cent increase in school participation.
Feedback received from participating schools suggests over 70 per cent of students participating in Inspire e-mentoring continue to engage in their education and are progressing toward their South Australian Certificate of Education.
Flinders University will continue to work in partnership with public, Catholic and Independent schools from 2014 supporting LSES, Indigenous and rural and regional students in aspiring to and accessing higher education. Inspire e-mentoring will play a significant role in providing access to mentoring support for students from rural, regional and remote locations, with an expected 750 students benefitting from the program over the next two years.
This case study is one of a series of 39 presented in our case study publication, Access and Participation in Higher Education: Outreach – Access – Support.