The Western Orthodox Academy

Mentors’ Guide

Appointment of Mentors

Men and women located anywhere in the world who are appropriately qualified and have reliable access to the Internet are eligible for appointment as Mentors and will normally be appointed as a Tutor, Director of Studies, Adjunct or Full Professor or other teaching appointment at the Western Orthodox University.

The Western Orthodox University will supply a letter of confirmation of appointment where requested.

For convenience, the Western Orthodox Academy refers to all persons when undertaking mentoring duties by the title Mentor.

Mentors will normally hold a graduate degree in their field, and preferably a doctorate, although the Western Orthodox Academy is flexible in considering the Mentor’s strengths on a holistic basis. They should also wherever possible have some teaching experience in similar situations. The Western Orthodox Academy does not offer training or professional development schemes for Mentors at the present time.

Nature of the Position of Mentor

The role of the Mentor embraces two equally important main elements:

  • sound awareness of the academic standards applied by responsible institutions, the integrity to uphold these standards and the ability to equate learning to them.
  • the ability to mentor, motivate and inspire the student to prepare and execute a structured and worthwhile programme of learning using the resources available to him/her, and to assist in the process of finding and using those resources.

Reference should be made throughout to the Western Orthodox University’s Regulations and to the other contents of this website.

Except where explicitly specified otherwise, Mentors are regarded as independent contractors and are not employees of either the Western Orthodox Academy, the Western Orthodox University or their agents. They are thus solely responsible for their own tax affairs, health insurance etc. Those wishing to become Mentors may apply for appointment, or be invited to join the panel of Mentors as a result of contact with an existing Mentor or officer. They are required to submit a full curriculum vitae and copies of qualification certificates which will be held on file for the duration of their appointment. By making application, Mentors agree that details of their professional life, such as qualifications, appointments, publications and research interests, may be used by the Western Orthodox Academy for the purposes of information and marketing via its website.

The individualized nature of the Western Orthodox University’s pedagogical model means that it is highly responsive to the teaching interests of its faculty. Where possible, programmes will be designed with faculty strengths in mind and faculty teaching interests publicized to potential research students. Ideas for programmes, or details of areas of particular teaching interest, are invited and welcomed from faculty.

Mentors report to the Chancellor, who has overall responsibility for academic affairs within the Western Orthodox University and the Western Orthodox Academy, or his deputed officer.

Payments

All Mentors are paid an annual fee on a per-student basis. The annual fee is payable by the student on the first anniversary of matriculation, and the payment to the Mentor will follow as soon as is practicable afterwards.

The annual fee is payable in two instalments: 50% when the student is assigned, and 50% at the close of the year or when the student graduates, whichever is the sooner.

The Western Orthodox Academy makes its payments electronically, and reserves the right to determine its method of payment in each case. Payments will generally be made in pounds sterling, euros or US dollars. All currency exchange fees and related duties are the responsibility of the Mentor.

The Western Orthodox Academy’s rate of pay is reviewed regularly to ensure that it remains competitive. However, when work arises in the developing world, it is commonly expected that Mentors will be willing to accept a reduced rate of pay to take account of the prevailing economic conditions in the country of the student concerned. Mentors nevertheless remain free to refuse such work, without prejudice to being offered further work by the Western Orthodox Academy.

Profile of the student

A student at the Western Orthodox Academy is not the typical school-leaver, but more likely, irrespective of existing academic achievements, to be a professional ‘performer’ with some 10+ years of relevant experience under the belt. This type of candidate is very highly motivated, very responsive, alert and very capable of adding a strong element of practical applicability to work submitted. There will be some who have come to learning by wholly unorthodox routes; all are welcome and all are encouraged to fulfil their academic potential. The Western Orthodox Academy screens applications to ensure that the student’s educational aims are likely to be capable of being fulfilled before a programme place is offered.

It is in the area of more formal requirements that the candidate is more likely to fall short of the required standards, as usually it will have been a few years since they were last engaged in any higher education, and this is the area where you would be expected to be of considerable help, with repair strategies very important.

Communication with the student

The Western Orthodox Academy’s system requires you to be directly available to the student. It is important to emphasize that this one-to-one structure is one of the principal distinguishing features of the Western Orthodox Academy’s approach, and that the mentoring role of the Mentor means that you in effect take responsibility for the student’s programme from the point of their assignment to you to the point of final submissions before graduation. This is an unique position of trust, and it is one reason why we regard character and integrity as vital qualities for a successful Mentor.

Although candidates are very strongly encouraged to employ self-direction, they should be able to communicate with you on an ‘as needed’ basis. You are requested to make answers available as soon as possible after receiving queries.

In practical terms, this means providing an e-mail address for correspondence, and in addition, you should provide an address where you can receive postal mail. It is up to you whether you choose to be available to your students by fax and/or telephone, but the use of some telephone contact is strongly encouraged. In most cases, this will be facilitated by simply arranging a time at which the student may call you. Even if you allow students to contact you by fax or telephone, you are under no obligation to return communications by the same means. Should you choose to call or fax the student, the Western Orthodox Academy will not offer compensation or reimbursement of costs involved. Likewise, you should not accept collect calls from students, or collect mail in any form, unless you are happy to bear those costs personally.

Some students may tend to contact you fairly often; if a student telephones or emails frequently and at length, please notify the Western Orthodox Academy of a) type of enquiries; and b) general level of progress. Also include any other information that may be important. In such cases the student may possibly be wrongly placed on the programme. Also, most lengthy issues are best discussed by mail or e-mail in order for all parties to get the full picture.

Receiving, commenting on and collating academic work

The Mentor will be receiving work on a regular basis from the student, either through attachments to email (recommended) or through fax or postal mail. You may comment on work submitted by e-mail and attach a copy to the essay if you wish. If postal mail is chosen by the student, please inform them that they must enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope with their mailing so that their corrected work may be returned.

Comment helpfully to the student on his/her progress. The Western Orthodox Academy and the Western Orthodox University do not assign marks, grades or a grade point average at any stage of research or APEL programmes. However, the Mentor should indicate clearly where a submission does not meet a pass standard for the award in question (see below under “Sub-standard work”). Your summative comments on academic work and eventually on the transcript should be looking for the positive throughout and responding holistically to what the student has done. There is no requirement for a lengthy critique of the work submitted.

Mentors are requested to keep an electronic log of student/Mentor contacts with brief comments on progress. Submit a copy of the log (by e-mail) to the Western Orthodox Academy at the end of each year. Keep a copy of the log and submit it with the final portfolio and report.

It is extremely important that all corrected, finished work (excluding drafts) such as essays, papers, dissertations etc. is kept safely. The Western Orthodox Academy recommends that the Mentor keep a copy of all corrected work wherever possible. This is necessary firstly as a safeguard against loss or damage to the student’s copy, and secondly because such material is often vital evidence in the event that any dispute or complaint is raised regarding the programme.

At the end of the programme, the Mentor is responsible for collating ALL finished and assessed work from the student that has been completed during the programme. They then write a short report on the quality of this work, and make a recommendation as to whether the candidate has met the standards for the award of the degree or not. The Mentor must then forward this portfolio of work with their report to the Western Orthodox Academy.

Once received, a panel consisting of members of the Regents of the Western Orthodox University will consider the Mentor’s report and the portfolio of work undertaken in a process of ratification that ensures University-wide quality standards (and those of appropriate validating bodies where applicable) are upheld. If they are satisfied that the standard has been met, they will recommend to the University that the award be made. If they are not so satisfied they may refer the work back to the Mentor and the student with comments and recommendations so that the standard may be met.

Vacations and similar absences

When you plan activities that will make you unavailable for longer periods (in excess of 4 weeks) at a time, or are unavailable because of unexpected events such as a family bereavement, please advise the University, and also, as far as is feasible, your assigned students at the time.

The Chancellor or his/her deputed officer may at his/her discretion appoint a stand-in Mentor for your students during your absence if this is for longer than six weeks. In the case of what amounts to compassionate leave being granted you will continue to receive payment for your duties as normal; if students have to be reassigned because of your absence for other reasons (eg. professional commitments), your payment will be reduced correspondingly.

One overriding factor with the typical student is that they have a really strong determination to get on with things, and do not wish to be held up. Incidentally, chances are that the period you have chosen for your extended vacation will coincide with a sudden spurt of activity from your students!

In the following you will find a few points outlined which will assist you in supporting the candidate and help the Western Orthodox Academy; please read through them and if you have any queries or suggestions, please do contact us.

The student/mentor relationship

The Mentor is the Western Orthodox Academy and Western Orthodox University’s ‘ambassador’ when dealing with students. It is vital that the candidate will be able to communicate with you based on this fact. The working relationship between you and the individual candidate is expected to be based on respect, courtesy, friendliness and the professional application of skills in the motivated pursuit of results.

Remember, candidates for Western Orthodox University awards are mature, experienced adults, and should be highly motivated towards reaching their goals.

The concept of remote communication makes the above points even more vital. You will often be dealing with a candidate from another culture, and diplomacy and tact must be used. Since you and the student will rarely, if ever, be able to meet face to face, every effort should be made to make the student feel comfortable as he or she proceeds with the programme.

Should matters arise which cannot be resolved between student and Mentor they should be discussed with the Chancellor. Never hesitate in seeking the Chancellor’s advice; the student/mentor relationship is supposed to be a comfortable one for both parties.

Supervising and assessing work

All students are encouraged to refer to the Students’ Guide and other guidelines on how to prepare portfolios and supporting papers. All such work must follow these guidelines, and any other directives given by the Western Orthodox University. Dissertations are not acceptable if not preceded by a summary proposal to be approved by both the Mentor and the Western Orthodox University. Again, a fully-specified guide for both undergraduate and postgraduate study is provided, and no student will be able to claim ignorance of what is expected of them.

The style of the Western Orthodox University is to support strongly the value of individual experience. First-person narrative in submitted materials to do with individual experience (such as in the documentation of prior learning) is not merely acceptable, it is expected. The free expression of ideas and experiences is valued over mere semantic correctness. The student should be encouraged to use the vernacular and to express their own learning experiences in whatever way is most natural to them, without criticism for lack of formality or similar cavils. Obviously these comments do not apply where the subject-matter is not to do with individual experience but instead with established knowledge that requires formal presentation and discussion.

In the event that instruction is needed that goes beyond that which the Mentor is able to reasonably provide, the student should contract with an appropriate tutor in his/her locality or remotely. This will particularly be the case if the student needs support in language issues such as the command of English, but it may also apply in cases where the student would benefit from an additional workplace mentor, for example. The Mentor should assist with finding such a tutor where needed, and arrange where appropriate for the tutor to submit a progress report for the student’s file at appropriate intervals (not less than twice each semester) in accordance with regulatory arrangements for collaborative supervision. For the preparation of dissertations, the student may find it useful to contract with an additional mentor in that field who can offer subject-specific insight and advice as a co- or collaborative supervisor; such opportunities may also arise informally without the need for formal contract and compensation. In such positions, the Mentor will act as co-ordinator of the student’s programme.

The student is responsible for all costs involved in contracting with community-based and other learning providers. These costs are in addition to programme fees and the Western Orthodox Academy cannot offer financial help towards third party arrangements. However, if the student’s financial circumstances change suddenly for the worse during their programme, you as their Mentor may be the first to learn of this. Please do let us know in as much detail as possible and we will do our utmost to help.

All necessary books and other materials are to be purchased by the student. There are many online bookstores, of which Amazon is one of the best-known; abebooks can also help with second-hand and out-of-print titles. In the event of difficulty obtaining books, the University can often help, and in extreme cases may be able to obtain the book and mail it to the student provided the fees in this process are met.

Dissertations

In dissertations, theses and equivalent creative or professional projects, you should assist the student to draft a summary proposal of the project (normally about 1,000 words, more if necessary to explain what will be involved). This must then be approved by you and sent on to the Chancellor for Senate approval. The student should not start work until approval from the Senate is received. Where appropriate, the student is encouraged to convene a Panel for the project, consisting of subject experts and peers whom they contract with independently. As well as guidance for the student through the writing process, the Panel will provide an opportunity for external assessment of the project, and they must be satisfied as to the level reached (as evidenced by their reports) in order for this requirement to be signed off by you.

Sub-standard work

It is possible that a student may, for whatever reason, be submitting sub-standard work in the programme, sub-standard being defined in this case as ineligible for degree credit. A student whose work is sub-standard over an extended period will be subject to a further evaluation by the Chancellor or his deputed officer and may be de-matriculated if there is no prospect of reasonable improvement. However, we want to be as flexible as we can in offering a second chance to students who need more time to absorb a particular competency. The Mentor must balance these factors to ensure that both academic probity and student opportunity are fully served.

Various points

1. Students whose mother-tongue is not English must not be penalised for incorrect English or spelling. You may make corrections and suggestions as to repair strategies, and where obvious language problems present themselves you should advise the student to have an English speaking editor available for final drafts. Work may be submitted in a foreign language that both you and the student are fluent in. However, all such work MUST be submitted for final assessment with a NOTARIZED translation into English, and any work to be queried with the Western Orthodox Academy in the interim must also be translated likewise. The costs of translation are to be borne by the student.

2. The Mentor must keep copies in their student file of all letters, written documents and e-mails sent to the student. When the student graduates, please forward the student file to the University for reference.

3. Please do type/word-process, not hand-write, all communications to the student. It is understood that hand-written annotations may be used on student assignments, though email or typescript in a different color are as effective if not more so. Indeed, it is our impression that more elaborate comments should be typed, as the writing of the Mentor is second only to that of the medical doctor in terms of just how difficult it can be to make any sense of! This is particularly true where the student has a different mother-tongue, and perhaps is used to a different written alphabet altogether.

4. We hope you are going to enjoy working with the Western Orthodox Academy. Please feel free to write, email or fax us whenever you wish, or there is something of concern you wish to discuss.