Your main goal as a mentor is to guide students to completing the projects on their path at the pace that suits them best. The challenge is therefore for the student to successfully complete all the projects as quickly as possible, depending on their existing skill set and the amount of personal time they can dedicate to studying.
Don’t forget that students are not obliged to validate the courses in order to progress on a project: the courses serve as an additional support only. It is up to you to encourage them to take the courses they need as they complete a project. You will meet each student every week by videoconference. At the end of each session, we recommend that you fix the date of the next session and plan it directly on the platform.
Leading efficient mentorship sessions
There are several essential ingredients for efficient and motivating mentorship sessions, including :
The right environment
Constant skill assessment
Weekly personal study time
Structured mentorship sessions
Setting the right environment
To ensure that a student has a positive learning experience the mentor has to get the basics right. This starts with the obvious:
computer with webcam and microphone (or headset with microphone)
Stable internet connection for video-conference calls
Professionalism from your attire, the environment to your language
Punctuality is really important
Sessions of the correct duration (30 minutes for self-financed students or 45 minutes for funded students)
Assessing your student’s skill-set
As a mentor, a core part of your role is to help your students set SMART goals every week, track their progress and decide when they are ready for a project assessment. However to do any of this, you need to assess the student’s skill-set. This is not easy! However it becomes more and more natural with practice and with greater familiarity with the projects.
To produce each and every project deliverable, students will need to put into practice a wide variety of skills. The mentor helps the student to their initial skills and abilities. He or she can then break down the acquisition of the skills needed to achieve the objective into different stages.
Mathieu Martinez, mentor on the Java path, explains in the following diagrams how to define personal goals for a student:
The key questions to ask would then be:
What is my student capable of doing at this moment in time?
What specific skills does he or she lack in order to move forward?
What helped me when I was in their situation ?
As a reminder, to help you, in the "Mentor Guide" tab of each project there is an assessment grid where each competency is broken down into its assessment criteria. To validate a project, the student will be assessed on the basis of these criteria.
For example, in the Digital Project Manager path, the skill "Selecting Web technologies adapted to the product developed" can be set to be reworked based on the following criteria:
The appendix to the Technology Selection Workbook is complete if :
❒ The comparison of the 3 alternatives is formalized;
They are coherent if:
❒ The weighting of the comparison criteria reflects the specificities of the project;
❒ The arguments justifying the evaluation of the relevance of each solution are clearly defined by the student (example: time to get used to it);
They are presentable if:
❒ The synthesis of the reflection is presented on a slide;
❒ The project leader's speech is in line with the information presented.
Your ability to use and apply your own knowledge is crucial. By combining this with the assessment grid, you can phase the different stages of the deliverables and then give your student concrete goals to complete the project successfully. You can also contact other mentors to discuss specific technical points for each project.
Setting SMART goals
SMART goals are another important part of being an effective mentor.
But what is a smart goal?
Well it is a handy acronym to keep in mind about what a student’s goal should ideally be:
S - Specific: targets a specific skill (evaluation criteria) that the student needs to work on
M - Measurable: is quantifiable and/or has clear indicators of progress or completion
A - Achievable / Attainable: presents an appropriate challenge to the student based on their existing skill-set and their available study time
R - Relevant: relates directly to where the student is on the project and would help the student make the most progress on the project
T - Time-bound: has a clear deadline typically the next mentorship session
For example: "Reading Parts 1 and 2 of the "Running Your PC with Windows 10" course and proposing a first version of the second project deliverable for the next session" is a SMART goal. On the contrary, "Progressing on Project Management" is not a SMART goal.
To help a student set a goal, it is best to start with a focused skill in your assessment of the student. Focus on what would help the student develop or practice the skill to the level required to make progress on the project.
A goal like “Continue working on the courses” would not be SMART. because it’s not specific and it’s not measurable. It is certainly achievable as it is a vague request that doesn’t present the student with a motivating challenge. To make the goal SMART you could change it to complete 80% of the Vue.js course.
Weekly personal study time
Between mentorship sessions, it is up to the student to work independently to achieve the agreed goals. The student’s ability to commit and follow through on the agreed goals are key to their success.
Some students may contact you between sessions in case they have questions or get stuck. However it is up to you to determine what you can do to help them and to control the time you spend on students between sessions.
It is essential to manage student expectations in terms of your availability and responsiveness between mentorship sessions from the very beginning. If a student gets impatient, feel free to to remind them that you have your own work commitments, that there is no response time deadline between sessions, and that you are doing your best. Do not hesitate to remind students of the existence of Workplace groups from the very first session in order to communicate directly with the student community.
There are several things that a student can do in their personal study time to get the most out of their mentorship sessions. So do encourage them to:
Devote as much time as required to grasp the concepts before getting started on the deliverables. Do let the student know that the durations indicated on the platform measure only the ‘guided learning’ time i.e. the time for following courses and actually working on the project deliverables. The indicated durations do not include personal study time. So as a mentor you can reassure your student that it perfectly normal to spend double the indicated time to complete a project.
Commit to studying a set number of hours every week and to keep a record of their study time
Prioritise the goals set in the mentorship session and identify what obstacles, if any they faced in completing the goals
Explore which questions and challenges can be dealt with independently by reaching out to their peers via Workplace for e.g. code reviews, feedback on a deliverable etc
Prepare their mentorship sessions by listing their main questions and challenges to be discussed during the session.
Contact the Student Success team if they are struggling with anything, need some support or advice
Structured mentorship sessions
For simplicity and efficiency, every mentorship session should have the same general structure. However, keep a little flexibility: sometimes it is necessary to spend more or less time on certain parts of the session .
Building a relationship of trust is critical and that can only happen by getting to know your student and establishing bonds with them. So you don’t need to dive straight into the student’s project work. You can take a few minutes to catch-up on what has been going on in the student’s life. Ask them about their recent move. Ask them about their baby who hasn’t been sleeping well… You might just learn about things impacting their capacity to study and to make progress on their paths.
Do not underestimate the importance of this step. Mentors are valued for their human side: that's what makes all the difference! If you ever feel the need, don't hesitate to spend a little more than 5 minutes talking about something other than training: letting the person express themselves and say how they feel can unblock a lot!
#info Students sometimes experience personal, family and work challenges. We remember, for example, one student who had just come out of prison and needed to rebuild his life: it took him several sessions with his mentor to give readjust and start to working real effectively on his projects. You can't carry the whole weight of the student's life on your shoulders, but you can to listen to him.
Progression, obstacles and questions
20 minutes (Self-financed student)
After catching-up, then you can get straight into the heart of the matter. In every session, you should try to cover the following:
What progress did the student make on the goals set in the last session?
Give constructive feedback on the work done so far. What was done well? What could have been done better?
Ask questions to assess the student’s knowledge, understanding and their ability to apply, analyse and evaluate what they have learned
What obstacles did the student face? What may still be needed to fully overcome them?
What questions does the student have about the project and their work? Could the student have researched answers themself or asked their peers via Workplace?
What is the progress on the project to be indicated when adding the session notes?
The mentor guide is the source of truth on everything to do with the project. So in order to give your student meaningful feedback on their work, do make sure that you read it and have the latest version in mind when speaking to your student.
35 minutes (funded student)
On top of everything you cover in a session for self-financed students, there is the added challenge to complete the path on time when it comes to funded student, . This means that in every session you will also need to answer these questions:
Is the student on track to complete the project on time based on the training calendar, if there is one provided, or before their funding runs out?
What strategies could be put in place to optimise the student’s chances to complete their path on time? E..g. increase the amount of personal study time per week…
If your student doesn’t make progress on the agreed goals, use the session to find out what is going on with them. Talk through the student’s mid to long term goals, ask how they feel about their training, check what they may be worrying about and what their motivation levels are. Take the time to listen to the student. Being an empathetic ear can make all the difference. c
If you are worried about your student’s progress or the likelihood of them completing their path in time, please alert OpenClassrooms as soon as possible. You can indicate this directly from the platform in the private commentary - more information about this in this article of the help center or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Set new SMART goals
As you document your session notes, set new SMART goals for your student that takes into account what they have accomplished since the last session, the amount of time that they have for personal study and what they should be focusing. For example :
If your student wasn’t able to complete all their goals in the week, the best thing might simply be to stick with the same goals
If your students completes everything with no difficulty you may want to consider giving them more challenging but still achievable goals
However if your student was stuck on a particular concept, you could help them by breaking it down into a small sub-goal
Outline of a session
There can be as many different types of mentorship sessions as there are students. However all the key elements of a session should be covered in every single session e.g.:
Code review or deliverable review sessions with questions and constructive feedback from the mentor. In doing so you can identify goals to address some recurring errors
Mock project presentation to determine a student’s readiness for assessment and the areas still in need of work
Question and Answer session in which concepts are explained to the student with concrete examples from your professional life, and higher level concepts are introduced.
To conclude this chapter, here is a webinar, conducted with a mentor, to guide you through your sessions and make them more effective and motivating:
In the next chapter, we will show you how project presentations work. See you soon!