Background: Virtual supervisory relationships provide an infrastructure for flexible learning, global accessibility, and outreach, connecting individuals worldwide. The surge in web-based educational activities in recent years provides an opportunity to understand the attributes of an effective supervisor-student or mentor-student relationship.
Objective: The aim of this study is to compare the published literature (through a critical review) with our collective experiences (using small-scale appreciative inquiry [AI]) in an effort to structure and identify the dilemmas and opportunities for virtual supervisory and mentoring relationships, both in terms of stakeholder attributes and skills as well as providing instructional recommendations to enhance virtual learning.
Methods: A critical review of the literature was conducted followed by an AI of reflections by the authors. The AI questions were derived from the 4D AI framework. Results: Despite the multitude of differences between face-to-face and web-based supervision and mentoring, four key dilemmas seem to influence the experiences of stakeholders involved in virtual learning: informal discourses and approachability of mentors; effective virtual communication strategies; authenticity, trust, and work ethics; and sense of self and cultural considerations.
Conclusions: Virtual mentorship or supervision can be as equally rewarding as an in-person relationship. However, its successful implementation requires active acknowledgment of learners' needs and careful consideration to develop effective and mutually beneficial student-educator relationships.
- Formative pedagogy
- Medical education
- Online platforms
- Supervisory relationships
- Virtual education
- Virtual learning