Tag Archives: lifelong learning

Pay It Forward: The Value of Mentors

Mentor and mentee working together.I have been thinking lately about the value of mentors. I recently camped with a large group of youth and as we shared stories of past campouts I was amazed that some of them could remember details of outings five or six years ago. I reflected on the value of a mentor in a person’s life. Think about mentors in your life. How did they help shape who you are and what you do today? You can probably think of at least one mentor and have concrete memories of how they helped you. I have written on this topic before but I want to revisit it and expand on opportunities that everyone has to be a mentor.

Lifelong Learning

You do not have to be a professional teacher to be a learning mentor to someone. Many of our AIM alumni credit their spouse or significant other for getting them through this rigorous graduate program. Not only were they patient and picked up the slack so the student could succeed, they often filled in knowledge gaps and helped them study. My wife helped me through some tough mathematical equations while I was writing my capstone thesis. I knew what I wanted the outcome to be but needed help setting up the problem. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a student. Share your knowledge and you will indeed be rewarded.

A number of years ago I helped coach a group of high school students in a Junior Achievement group. The program teaches students how to run a mock company. They form a company at the beginning of the school year, create and sell a product, then liquidate the company at the end of the school year. I worked with the vice president of marketing; other adults mentored youth in jobs that mirrored theirs. I was able to teach some valuable skills, and I learned a lot about how to work with others and be an effective mentor. It was a great experience and I still use the skills I gained. Rather than keeping your valuable skills to yourself, consider how you can pass on your knowledge and expand your influence.

Mentors In The Workplace

In the workplace we have the opportunity to mentor and be mentored. Have you ever started a new job and found someone in the organization willing to share their wisdom? Did they help jump start your new job? If you have benefitted from a kind and wise mentor, consider being that mentor for others coming up behind you. We are all busy but I think carving out just a little bit of time each day to help someone brings many rewards.


I hope that you will consider being a mentor or accepting help from a mentor and I hope that you find, like I did, that the people you reach out to remember and value the experience years later.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Tips for Successful Online Students

Jon Dolan and Bart Sumner, 2013 AIM Program graduates

I read a report earlier this week titled “What We Can Learn from Unsuccessful Online Students.” However, I prefer to focus on the positive, so this week I would like to present tips from successful online students. This comes from my own experience as an online student as well as from teaching successful online students.

Time Management

I have found that the number one predictor of a successful online student is the ability to manage the twenty-four hours that they are given every day. Online students do not have to attend an onsite class in a physical building at a particular time, but they still need to set aside a discreet block of time to study. When students try to squeeze studies in between other activities, often that time is co-opted by other pressing or higher priority items. One has to be realistic about how many hours a week it takes to review lectures, participate in discussions, and complete assignments. Set aside enough time to produce quality work without being rushed by deadlines.


Successful online students are skilled in balancing their schoolwork with other activities and responsibilities. School does not have to be the number one priority, but it should be in the top tier. Family, work, health, friends, and service are also possible high priorities, but a successful student realizes that each has their place and time. If family is high on the list, you may need to block out time for schoolwork after 10 p.m. when the house is quieter. If friends are of a significant importance, you may need to balance an active social calendar with schoolwork. If they are good friends, they will understand your priorities. Work to set aside the time for the things important to you and prioritize the things that must get done.


Build a support network. It is difficult, if not impossible, to complete online studies in a vacuum. Engage your friends, family, a spouse, or colleagues. Help them understand why reaching this milestone is important to you and enlist their assistance in achieving your vision. Let them be invested in your success. Let your support network compensate for your weaknesses. Is your writing rusty? Find at least one—I often recommend two—proofreaders to catch mistakes and help polish your assignments. Are you not confident in your technical abilities? Approach your favorite tech person and offer something in return for helping you set up applications and infrastructure. Some of the best tech people I know will work for food. A well-cooked meal beats chips and energy bars any day. Create a support network and let them celebrate successes with you.

Ask Questions

Be humble enough to realize that you are not an expert on every subject. You are pursuing online education so that you can learn, grow, and become better at your chosen profession. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the instructor, the other students, or of your support network. No one will think you are dumb. You left that thinking back in high school. Colleagues, friends, and instructors genuinely want you to succeed and are there to help—all you need to do is ask.


Time management, discipline, a support network, and the ability to reach out for help are all success factors in online education. It will not necessarily be an easy journey, but it will definitely be rewarding as you grow in your new skills and accomplish important milestones such as graduation. Learning is life-long, and while milestones are important, it is equally important that you are continuously growing and learning. What are some of the factors that have made you successful? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.