Mentoring, Peer Support, and Online Communities

Examples of outcomes from mentoring, peer support, and other online engagement in earlier DO-IT projects are summarized below.

  • Positive participant perceptions of mentoring and peer support suggest that peer-peer and mentor-protege relationships, primarily through Internet-based communication, provide participants with psychosocial, academic, and career support; however, peer-peer relationships tend to be more personal in nature. Participants in one study considered benefits of electronic mail over other types of communication to include the ability to communicate over great distances easily, conveniently, quickly, inexpensively, and without the need to synchronize schedules. They expressed value in the ability to meet people from all over the world and to communicate with more than one person at a time. Some participants reported that computers help them overcome disability-related barriers that are present during other forms of communication; for example, email allows a person who is deaf to communicate without the need of an interpreter. Many reported cases where people treat them more positively because they were not immediately aware of their disabilities.


    Burgstahler, S., & Cronheim, D. (1999). Opening doors through mentoring: One program's experiences using the Internet. Information Technology and Disabilities, 6(1-2).

    Burgstahler, S., & Cronheim, D. (2001). Supporting peer-peer and mentor protege relationships on the internet. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 34(1), 59-74.

  • Participants in an e-mentoring community reported the greatest effects of year-round e-mentoring to be the development of career skills, followed by academic and social skills.


    Kim-Rupnow, W. S., & Burgstahler, S. (2004). Perceptions of students with disabilities regarding the value of technology-based support activities on postsecondary education and employment. Journal of Special Education Technology, 19(2), 43-56.

  • In Internet communications, males were more preoccupied with the Internet and other technology and females with personal issues, suggesting the importance of finding ways to encourage females to develop skills and positive self-concepts in this area because it is of critical importance in STEM fields.


    Burgstahler, S., & Doyle, A. (2005). Gender differences in computer-mediated communication among adolescents with disabilities: Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics case study. Disability Studies Quarterly, 25(2).

  • Project mentors reported that topics discussed with participants include STEM, college issues, disability-related issues, careers, computers, assistive technology, and the Internet.


    Burgstahler, S., & Cronheim, D. (2001). Supporting peer-peer and mentor-protege relationships on the Internet. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 34(1), 59-74.