Providing a modern and centralised mentoring solution at Kingston University London

Kingston University’s Student Enrichment team runs various programmes and mentoring schemes to help enhance the experience and knowledge gained by students at Kingston University. Julia Millette manages the team that runs 2 mentoring schemes – firstly, a peer-to-peer mentoring scheme where 2nd year students mentor 1st year students on the same courses. Secondly, they have their Beyond Barriers programme, where Krista Slinn and Rachel Muir run the programme as a job share. It is a six-month one-to-one widening participation mentoring scheme to help students from under-represented groups in Higher Education achieve their potential through a tailored one-to-one relationship.

Challenges re-recruiting mentors for following years

Julia Millette explains, “Before we started to look for an online mentoring system, we were holding all the information about mentors and mentees in spreadsheets. Particularly challenging was that we didn’t have an overview of mentors that were returning each year and if they did return, they had to re-apply. This meant we lost some mentors and it was not an easy process for those that did re-apply. That was one of the drivers for looking for a technology solution, as well as needing to analyse and report on the data about participants.”

Krista Slinn explains, “We had a bespoke web application form that the creative content team had created. It was good but wasn’t a way to store the information and update it the following year. So every year, mentors had to reapply. And rather than matching within the system, we had to print out all individual applications in order to do the matching. We then had to manually add all the matched pairs to spreadsheets. Instead, we wanted a platform to keep all information in one place.”

With 300 mentors and 300 mentees, it became unruly in spreadsheets and they had to keep updating things in multiple places. “Additionally, if you wanted to make changes to the spreadsheet,” explains Krista, “Only one person at a time could use it, so as not to overlap which was very frustrating. Matching was also a challenge.

Simplifying the registration and matching process

They chose sfG MentorNet as their online mentoring system and now their registration application process is straightforward. It’s easy to use and to fill in details and the matching process is also far easier. The system allows them to filter mentees and mentors on degree subject, industry experience and key skills which has dramatically improved the matching process.

As regards mentors, they can now just de-activate and re-activate them accordingly. If for example someone wants a break, they can keep their profile as inactive and just ask mentors to update it when they want to start again.

A smoother process, with everything in one place

“It’s a far smoother process now, using sfG MentorNet. For people who had previously applied, they don’t need to re-apply. And everything is pulled into one place – profiles, communication and resources. It’s useful for building a sense of community and it has been so brilliant working with sfG.”

Krista Slinn says, “Using sfG MentorNet has made a big difference. Now, instead of only one person at a time being able to edit a spreadsheet, multiple people can go in and edit data inside sfG MentorNet, which is a far more productive use of our time. This has been particularly important when working from home. sfG MentorNet is also a one-stop shop for everything related to the mentoring scheme.”

Maintaining more participants and better supporting students

It’s now far easier for mentors and mentees to register and re-register for the scheme, ensuring they lose fewer people. Julia reflects on expectations and that, ”People now expect you to have a strong online offering. The scheme used to be just face-to-face, but people now expect you to have a good online offering as well as face-to-face. I think lots of universities may want to consider that. People expect the online experience to be the same as other platforms they use in their everyday lives – and they expect it to be smooth and easy-to-use, which is what they get with sfG MentorNet.” 

The scheme is able to better support students, to offer them the professional and personal skills to help them balance their future professional lives with their personal lives – and the two are closely intertwined. The system helps standardise this pastoral side of things, alongside the academic programmes and helps them grow these activities in a manageable way. They believe that mentoring will become something that more and more universities will look at and having this system in place would help them do so.

sfG MentorNet also enables mentors and mentees to record key points from each of their meetings, so that they can see how far they have progressed and follow a purpose, rather than just being a chat.

“Brilliant” working with sfG

“One of the key things I have to accentuate,” says Julia, “Is that it has been so brilliant working with sfG. We were all wary about getting to know a new IT system, but they made it so pleasurable. They are so good, responsive and explain things very clearly. They are also always open to hearing how we are using and modifying the system. And that has been a real plus point. From our first meeting with sfG, they knew what they were talking about, were very knowledgeable and professional. I got a sense that I could work with this company very well.” Krista agrees, “Whenever we have a question or an issue, they are quick to respond and get onto it. Very easy to work with and that is not something par for the course with other companies, where it hasn’t been as seamless.” We know that our feedback is taken on board and that the product will continually improve, in line with requirements.

Future plans

In future, they plan to use more of the discussion functionality, to try out discussion forums for mentors – to raise points – such as how to help mentees facing challenges due to the pandemic. Depending on how this goes, they may also hold more specific discussions for industries or areas of development that people are working on.

They also want to use the Events functionality and recording of Activity Logs in sfG MentorNet. And they would like to start using the mobile app, so that mentors and mentees can message each other, using messaging technology similar to that which they are all used to. They want to continually improve the way they do things and provide more benefit to students.

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