Innovations in Undergraduate Mentoring: School-University Partnerships to Address Needs and Inequities During Pandemic-Related Remote Learning

Amy Vatne Bintliff, Caren Holtzman, Ellen Ko, Brycen Barron-Borden, Vivian Thong, Kathleen Ardell





The COVID-19 pandemic facilitated abrupt shifts in university-to-community service-learning partnerships, such as mentoring and tutoring programs. This mixed methods study investigates the needs that under-resourced schools and nonprofit organizations faced during the shift to remote instruction in Southern California, and how their university service-learning partners had to innovate in order to continue providing meaningful experiences for both undergraduates and partners. 72 school and nonprofit partners, 6 university lecturers of service-learning courses, and 55 university undergraduates participated in the study in June of 2020. Methods include surveys, interviews, and a focus group discussion with an emphasis on qualitative data analysis. Community partner needs included digital literacy, coping with complex remote learning environments, concern for the basic needs of children, and negotiating policies that inhibited the continuation of traditional mentoring. The following innovations stemmed from the evaluation of all constituents’ needs: 1) remaining in contact with service-learning partners during times of crisis; 2) connecting with families; 3) redesigning courses to provide more support and flexibility for undergraduates; and 4) supporting digital literacy needs via remote tutoring. Recommendations for future success include creating flexibility in school policies to allow the most vulnerable constituents better access to mentors during the pandemic and beyond.


Keywords: service-learning, mentoring, COVID-19, higher education



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