Peer learning can help improve university outcomes and help students stay on a path to personal and professional success

5 examples of successful peer learning

Peer learning can help improve university outcomes and help students stay on a path to personal and professional success

Higher education has a problem: When students are isolated due to online learning, they miss out on valuable opportunities to build social skills that will carry them to success as they pursue their personal and professional goals.

Student isolation in online learning modalities deprives them of the social interaction necessary for success in their coursework and ill prepared to enter the workforce. This leads to higher dropout rates and graduates unprepared for the workforce due to a lack of social learning opportunities. 

Furthermore, these skills are increasingly valued by employers (Finley, 2021); in a recent American Association of College and Universities report, 93 percent of 496 surveyed employers rated the ability to work effectively in teams -utilizing skills of collaboration, communication, and connection- as important for college graduates. How can schools teach and reinforce these skills as more and more learners move online?

Solution: Tech-Supported Peer Learning

Peer learning has been demonstrated to resolve many of these issues for students by improving university offerings, including student support structures, online instruction and assessment, and virtual meeting spaces. Purpose-built technology solutions that facilitate peer learning online are a critical component to the success of university programs and student success.

The following examples provide a snapshot of several edtech solutions (Peerceptiv, InScribe and Riff EDU) that have been utilized by different institutions to support teaching and learning. 

Oregon State University (Case Study)

The Biology Department at Oregon State University saw an opportunity to improve the writing and collaboration skills of their students by incorporating peers into the assessment process. Peerceptiv created multiple opportunities built into online courses where students have an opportunity to interact with one another around their assignments using peer assessment. This has significantly improved student metacognitive skills, increased instructor efficacy, and improved overall student performance. Skills like communication and collaboration give students the confidence to work in multi-disciplinary settings, such that they are able to cross-communicate with teams and excel in work that might be outside their direct knowledge base.

University of Virginia (Research Summary)

At UVA, educators are finding ways to mimic the social interaction of in-person courses in their online offerings through Peerceptiv. Peer review and assessment has been implemented at a university-wide scale for online and in person courses.  A recent study highlighted student outlooks on peer learning. One student specifically remarked, “Peerceptiv was a dynamic way of interacting with peers during the pandemic on assignments,” reflecting the utility of the tool in facilitating interaction during a physically-isolated school year. Another student said that they enjoyed having access to a platform that successfully replicated in-person peer reviews. 

Rio Salado College (Case Study)

Higher education students today are increasingly dispersed and asynchronous. Many learn online or commute to and from school, and have little opportunity to interact directly with peers. In this new reality, how can schools continue to foster a sense of connection and belonging among their learners? Rio Salado College tackled this challenge through the creation of RioConnect, a virtual community designed by and for their students. This space allowed learners to connect anytime, anywhere to ask questions and share ideas, advice, and encouragement. In just six weeks, students participating in the RioConnect community reported significantly greater belonging and greater peer connectedness than students who had not engaged.

WGU Academy (Case Study)

Tackling an average of 22,000 support conversations annually became increasingly overwhelming for the student success team at WGU Academy. When program leaders Dr. Cherie Kroh, Academic Program Manager, and Tiffany Baldnado, Student Success Coach, saw that students were reaching out with the same question in 20 separate requests, they knew there had to be a better solution. How could they offer personalized, on-demand support, but in a much more scalable and efficient way? WGU Academy integrated InScribe’s digital communities into their student experience, offering a new way for students to seek help. Because answers provided via InScribe are shared with all students automatically, WGU Academy quickly cut down on the number of duplicate questions coming to the success team. Within just one month, WGU Academy was able to decrease incoming conversations by 23 percent, while maintaining the high level of personalized support students had come to know and expect.

Esme Learning (Case Study)

Existing communications tools for Online Program Management providers (OPMs) offer limited functionality. Esme Learning needed a unified communications tool that combined text and video chat, while integrating into online learning environments, in order to increase collaboration and improve engagement. Through the Riff EDU Platform, Esme’s learners worked through complex problems posed in the Cyber Futures course and were able to practice and receive real-time feedback about critical soft skills, such as collective decision-making. Riff helped course participants better connect with their peers, resulting in better team performance and better overall learning outcomes.

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