During the year end mentors meeting for the 2014-2015 In.Business Atlantic Region, mentors and I (Regional Manager) were discussing how we could help to reduce the feeling of isolation between groups, and what we could do to enhance the relationships established between students and mentors, at the opening conference. In most instances, students meet their mentor and the other students in their group for the first time at the opening conference. Of the 146 students who applied for the program, 60 were chosen with representation from 21 high schools across Atlantic Canada. In the past, after meeting face to face at the opening conference, interaction amongst most groups would slowly decline. This caused some students to feel disconnected from their group and, as a result, lose interest in the program. It was suggested by one of our mentors in 2014-2015, Angel Ward, that perhaps we could connect students virtually with their mentors via “Zoom Cloud,” which is a web conferencing software. Until she explained the benefits of Zoom Cloud and how it differs from Skype, I was skeptical. I’ve considered integrating Skype into the program in the past, but didn’t because not all students have access to Wi-Fi, and the call-in options are limited. However, if students are not connected to Wi-Fi (or do not want to use data), with Zoom Cloud they can call a toll free number to join. The only disadvantage of this is that the video function is lost. Another perk of using Zoom Cloud is that users don’t need a user name or password like they do with Skype. A url is created when I schedule each meeting, and all users have to do is click the link to join.
I schedule each meeting and attend to make sure there are no technical difficulties, but mentors are responsible for hosting each meeting with their 6-7 students. Each Wednesday night 2 different groups meet – one at 5:30 and another at 6:00. There are nine groups in total, meaning each group meets every 5th Wednesday evening. The topics of discussion vary from week to week and group to group. However, most groups talk about their most recent challenge, the expectations for their upcoming challenge, their progress with Music Mogul, studying business at the post-secondary level, and/or anything business related in the news. The feedback I’ve received from students and mentors has been very positive. They are maintaining strong connections with their group members, which will no doubt make the closing conference that much more enjoyable for all!
– Allan MacKenzie