The power of virtual mentoring and lecturing

Image by David Jones and released under Creative Commons

Cutting down on travel, concentrating on content – Image by David Jones released under Creative Commons

A few days ago, between breakfast and lunch, I visited two countries in SE Asia and one in sub-saharan Africa, delivering lectures and offering media strategy support.

  • From 06:00 to 07:00 I took part in a discussion with journalism students in Vietnam using a Moodle online learning tool in a project organised by the ICFJ.
  • Between 07.30 and 08:30 I presented an updated plan for the implementation of a digital first strategy for a new pan-African newspaper, the Mail & Guardian Africa.
  • From 09:00 to 10:00 I spoke to students from Trinity University of Asia in The Philippines (pictured below) who were using my material as part of their media course.

And all this was done from the comfort of the study in my home in England.

Real-time collaboration and learning

training journalism students in the Philippines

The chat with the students in the Philippines was particularly rewarding. Student Arrian Guevarra (on the left in the picture above) had shown great initiative by selecting one of my training modules from Media Helping Media about the relationship between journalists and politicians.

She used the site’s contact form to get in touch, and, with her colleagues, had drafted some excellent questions about the training module (below).

Is your journalism open to manipulation?

The efficiency of virtual working

In the past, this sort of work would have been difficult, but improved internet connectivity and speeds makes virtual strategy and training work so much easier.

Sharing screens, delivering presentations, demonstrating tools, taking part in questions and answer sessions, are now so easy to do. And the quality of some of the calls is so good that after a few minutes you actually feel as if you are in same room as those who are continents apart. You soon forget that you are working virtually.

No excuses for failing to follow up

So why is this important?

Well, in my line of work, which is media development and media strategy, so many interventions end when the project timeline is complete and the funders have been sent their final report. Everyone moves on.

But there is often still a need for ongoing help, support and mentoring for those who were involved in the project. And that support is often lacking because of cost.

However, if we could find ways of making use of the many free online communication and collaboration tools, costs could be slashed.

In future, an intelligent project plan should include ongoing virtual mentoring and support as part of the exit strategy.

It will be a lot less costly than moving people around the world. And there will be many senior journalists with years of experience who will be willing to offer such support.

And the pitch for that could be made at the funding stage rather than simply moving on to the next project having failed to adequately transfer skills and build local capacity.

Worth considering.