Virtual Research Mentoring Model (VRMM)
Virtual research mentoring is an important aspect of high impact mentoring and provides opportunities to underrepresented students who are involved in mentored experiences. Furthermore, the recent pandemic environment has resulted in creating better technological resources for faculty and students, and has demonstrated the extensive capabilities of virtual engagement and learning.
However, best practices for virtual research mentoring remain largely unknown. As an outcome of the CAA Academic Alliance’s IN/CO Round 3 grant project award, UNCW, Elon and NC A & T planned and executed a two-day workshop focused on addressing challenges with virtual research mentoring, involving students (both undergraduate and graduate), faculty and staff.
Entitled the Virtual Research Mentoring Model, (VRMM), mentors and their mentees attended the pilot event in June, 2023. Joining both traditionally (in person) and virtually, from across the country, UNCW hosted the VRMM event on campus in Wilmington, NC. Using a design challenge format, teams of students and faculty developed low fidelity prototypes that largely addressed two themes: 1) the importance of the mentee/mentor relationship, and 2) developing resources and training tools to improve mentors’ knowledge skills and abilities in a virtual setting.
A pre-post survey indicated improved comfort with virtual research mentoring, and indicated that nearly all students and faculty intended to participate in virtual research mentoring after participating in the workshop. Post event debriefing also elucidated important next steps with the pilot outcomes in the context of increasing opportunities for underrepresented students to participate in mentored research in a virtual environment.
A manuscript has been completed summarizing the event’s outcomes, and submitted for publication. A proposal was also submitted to the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) for inclusion in their upcoming annual conference in January, 2024. A toolkit developed from the pilot is forthcoming, and will be available for dissemination by early spring, 2024.
The goal of the pilot VRMM workshop held in summer, 2023 on the campus of UNCW in Wilmington, NC, as well as virtually with participants and facilitators across the country, was to test a pedagogical framework intended to provide faculty and students with the opportunity to learn more about research mentorship in general and to work in teams to design innovative ideas and programs to foster meaningful virtual research mentoring relationships. If successful, the intention is to expand the VRMM program more broadly, with the creation of a toolkit to ensure fidelity across events, a larger workshop including additional CAA Academic Alliance higher education institutions in summer 2024, and completely open sharing of the model beyond that.
News from VRMM