Academic mentoring at a distance – FAQs

We will be reviewing these FAQs regularly. For further guidance on academic mentoring, please visit the Good Practices document and the Eden Centre’s Academic Mentoring Portal, which has dedicated staff and student sections.

 

Q1: How can I maintain contact with students without overwhelming them with emails?

A1: Maintaining contact with students is hard amidst the move to online learning, teaching, and assessment. While it is useful to continue to email your mentees (for general updates, reaching out, and reminding them you are available), it is also helpful to consider other forms of contact. For example, you could set up an hour of “drop-in” academic mentoring sessions via Zoom for mentees talk to you. You may also want to send a survey to your mentees to get a better understanding of their needs or living situation, e.g. returned home or still living in halls.

 

Q2: How often should I be contacting my mentees?

A2: It is important to keep lines of communication open while avoiding overloading students with emails. You may choose to email all your mentees once a week with general updates, to remind them you are available to talk, and send links to LSE or external resources they may find useful, for example. They are also likely to be receiving communications from their lecturers, as well as departmental communications.

 

Q3: My mentees need extra support because of Covid-19. How can I help them?

A3: In addition to supporting them as their academic mentor, you can also refer your mentees to other services available at the School, which have moved online. This includes Student Wellbeing Service and LSE LIFE one-to-one appointments. You may also share external resources on staying safe and heathy, e.g. MIND’s resource on “Coronavirus and your wellbeing” and this infographic from UMO UK.

 

Q4: Students are not responding to my communications. What do I do?

A4: Many students have returned home. Many are feeling deeply concerned about their own and their loved ones’ health and safety. For this reason, they may be less likely to engage with their academic mentors. They may also be getting support from their families at home. We suggest you maintain your regular contact, while prioritising students who are still in halls and/or self-isolating, as they may have less access to a social support system.

 

Q5: My mentee has experienced racism as a result of Covid-19. What do I do?

A5: If one of your mentees shares this information with you, no matter their location or situation, you should listen and support them as best you can from a distance. If they are in a hall of residence, please tell them to immediately report it to their warden, if they feel safe doing so. You can also refer them to Report It. Stop It. Students can also make complaints though Student Services and be supported in the process by the Student Union. The School Senior Advocate for Students, Dr Pete Evanson, can also provide academic and pastoral support to students.

 

Q6: My mentees are very concerned about assessments. How can I support them?

A6: We have put together the following advice:

  • Encourage your students to start thinking about how they will set up their home space to take their assessments, e.g. clearing out a desk, having a conversation with whoever they are socially distancing with about assessment-related needs, etc.

  • If 24-hour assessments are selected by your department, reiterate that this 24h timeframe to sit the assessment includes extra time and breaks that students with Inclusion Plans would usually be entitled to.

  • It would also be helpful to share the usual advice you would give to students during the exam period.

  • Encourage students to practice going through the processes they would be required to do with online assessments so they familiarise themselves with these processes and identify the technology they need or external applications they may have to download, e.g. combining separate documents into one, converting from Word Document into a PDF,  scanning documents and uploading them – if they do not have a scanner, download an App that allows them to do so from a smartphone, etc. The Eden digital team is putting together specific student guidelines on this and will be linked here when it becomes available.  

  • More information about IEAs and IPs can be found here. If there are concerns about IEAs, students can seek support from DWS; alternatively, staff may wish to check out the situation with exams team (exams@lse.ac.uk) or Michele Sahrle, Deputy Head of SSC (M.Sahrle@lse.ac.uk), or Martyn Annis, Head of Student Services (M.Annis@lse.ac.uk). 

  • The Eden Centre has also put together a series of guidance for students for the Summer assessment period 2020.

 

Q7: What if I become unwell and can no longer fulfil my academic mentoring duties?

A7: It is important to plan ahead and anticipate a potential illness for you or your colleagues. Stay in touch with other academic mentors in your department and share experiences mentoring online with them. You should also keep your departmental manager or head of department up-to-date on any major issues relating to your mentees. Building consistent and regular communication will mean colleagues will not need to catch up if you fall ill. You may also want to designate a colleague who will take up your mentoring responsibilities if you are unwell. This colleague should then be identified in the  automatic response you set up if you become unwell so students can contact them directly.

 

Q8: My mentee is finding it hard to find new accommodation amidst the current crisis and is therefore temporarily homeless. How can I help?

If one of your mentees shares with you that they have been made homeless or have (temporarily) lost their housing or accommodation, e.g. they are unable to find new private rental after their lease has ended. You may do the following:

  • Signpost to LSE residential services as they may be able to access rooms in halls – if they cannot, residential services may be able to refer them on to external accommodation services

  • LSESU Hardship Fund, which covers emergency housing and homelessness

In this situation, your response should be as sensitive as possible, as referring them to resources on homelessness may make them feel even more isolated or stigmatised.  

 

Q9: My mentee would like to defer assessments but is worried they won’t graduate this academic year.

For undergraduates, deferring exams to August will not delay graduation. Graduation ceremonies will take place next academic year, but 3rd year students will graduate at the end of this summer and will be given the documentation, e.g. transcripts, to prove it so they can move on to post-graduate education or employment. IRDAP results are scheduled to be released on the 21st of September and the transcripts and certificates will be issued shortly after this (3 weeks is the norm). 

MSc students cannot defer into IRDAP.  If PGT students defer, they will be delaying their completion until the 2020/2021 academic year.

 

Q10: My mentees are worried about how this situation will affect their employment prospects.

A10: LSE Careers have issued Covid-19 specific FAQs on their website and are holding Q&A sessions with students.

 

Q11: My mentees are asking about Michaelmas term. What can I tell them?

A11: LSE is taking a flexible approach to learning for Michaelmas Term, as per Curriculum Shift 2020. This means all lectures will be delivered online, whilst small group classes, seminars, and tutorials will take place in-person on campus in socially distanced conditions. New students will be able to register for the academic year online, which will be followed with an on-campus enrolment event when you arrive in London.

LSE’s campus and halls of residence will be open to welcome all our new students for Welcome (Monday 21 September) with a range of enhanced safety measures in place to protect and support you. We expect students to register at LSE for the start of term as our campus will be open. However, if your enrolment is delayed by travel restrictions or problems obtaining your visa, support will be available for you from your programme teams and from central support services until you are able to join us later in Michaelmas Term.

You may also direct your students to the following LSE resources available to students, which are all updated regularly.

FAQs & guides:

LSE News Updates:

 

In addition to the resources mentioned above, as staff members involved with welcoming and engaging students, you may find the following resources helpful:

 

Q12: My mentee would like to take an interruption year. How can I help them?

A12: We are aware that some students are requesting to take an interruption year due to changing economic, health, or caring circumstances as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Requests for interruptions must follow the requirements and criteria as outlined on this page, even if the interruption is being requested as a result of Covid-19. This page on changing modes of attendance from the Department of International Relations provides a useful overview of options available to students.