Fostering transnational virtual mentoring relationships: Possibilities and pitfalls
Faculty members play a central role in designing meaningful learning experiences for students, and therefore require pedagogical expertise to do so in higher education settings. The Aga Khan University initiated a two-year virtual mentorship program to support faculty in enhancing their teaching, learning and its scholarship. The study engaged 22 AKU faculty and eight academics drawn from North America under the auspices of Academic without Borders (AWB). At the end of the study, six mentor-mentee pairs continued their mentorship, while others dropped out. A study was conducted to determine the factors that hindered and/or facilitated the success of the program, namely achievement of outcomes that participants set at the onset of the program. Qualitative methods such as interviews and document analysis were employed. The findings reveal that commitment, alignment between the mentoring goals and the professional roles of mentees, clarity about mentorship goals and high levels of commitment by both mentors and mentees contributed to the achievement of goals. However, mentees’ unwillingness to work with a mentor from a different discipline; cross-cultural differences on how mentors and mentees viewed mentorship; misalignment of mentoring goals with mentees’ professional roles; and lack of face-to-face interactions hindered faculty from achieving their outcomes. The study presents important lessons for future faculty development programming, particularly in settings similar to the study context.