Online Peer Mentors at UIS


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A brief description of the peer mentor program at the University of Illinois Springfield

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Online Peer Mentors at UIS

  1. 1. Developing a Peer Mentoring Program to Sustain Online Students Ray Schroeder, Emily Boles, Shari Smith, Carrie Levin Center for Online Learning, Research and Service University of Illinois at Springfield
  2. 2. Sustaining <ul><li>To keep in existence; maintain. </li></ul><ul><li>To supply with necessities or nourishment; provide for. </li></ul><ul><li>To support the spirits, vitality, or resolution of; encourage. </li></ul><ul><li>To bear up under; withstand: can't sustain the blistering heat. </li></ul><ul><li>-american heritage dictionary </li></ul>
  3. 3. Need for Online Mentoring <ul><li>Where/how does that informal advising take place online? </li></ul><ul><li>Commonly we create a “coffee shop” or a “pub” in the discussion board </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Does that serve the conversation between students as they walk into/out of class – as they chat about …. “Are you kidding me, or did old Prof Ray really mean we should………? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>NO…. Because the old prof sees that conversation! </li></ul>
  4. 4. Need for Online Mentoring <ul><li>Academic Issues </li></ul><ul><li>For online students, who fills the role of the senior student – the one down the dorm hall who has taken this class? </li></ul><ul><li>In an online class, who models best student responses? Where do you find a student who has taken the class who can look over your paper? </li></ul>
  5. 5. Need for Online Mentoring <ul><li>Non-Academic Issues </li></ul><ul><li>Many not purely academic issues arise for online students: </li></ul><ul><li>Why is he always picking on my postings? </li></ul><ul><li>I am in a family crisis – too embarrassing to tell my professor directly; falling behind </li></ul><ul><li>English is not my first language and I just don’t understand what she is writing </li></ul>
  6. 6. Need for Online Mentoring <ul><li>Confidential communicant </li></ul><ul><li>One of the under-recognized, yet highly valued roles of the department secretary is as a confidential filter for student concerns </li></ul><ul><li>Is there a liaison person who filters student concerns and raises them anonymously to the instructor as a departmental secretary might? </li></ul>
  7. 7. Example #1 <ul><li>Professor Donald Difficult </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Didactic (non-constructivist) approach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More interested in research grant than teaching </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Checks DB once a week – flurry of cryptic responses then nothing for a week </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Low student satisfaction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Low student evaluations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Low course completion rates </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Enter the Peer Mentor <ul><li>Sally Successful </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Aced Prof Difficult’s class last semester </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Through diligence and sophisticated online skills </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Excellent social skills and knowledge </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Likes people and loves the opportunities online learning has given her to complete her degree </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Enter the Peer Mentor <ul><li>Sally Successful -continued </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Jumps into the class, identifies herself as a mentor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Becomes the friend of each of the students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Models the best of the student responses to assignments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Engages each student along the way </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Respects confidentiality </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Peer Mentor <ul><li>Online peer tutors play an important role as peer mentors in classroom activities, sharing their experience, fostering discussion, and modeling the role of a successful student. </li></ul><ul><li>They are asked not to perform any activities pertaining to grading. </li></ul><ul><li>Why? What is lost by grading? </li></ul>
  11. 11. Qualities of a Good Peer Tutor <ul><li>What qualities make for a good online peer tutor? </li></ul><ul><li>In addition to having a good knowledge of the course material, an online peer tutor should be comfortable online. He or she will need verbal skills and social sensitivity. </li></ul><ul><li>-UIS guidelines </li></ul>
  12. 12. The Online Peer Mentor Role <ul><li>The role of the online peer mentor </li></ul><ul><li>“ The duties of online peer tutors include tutoring students, facilitating discussion, and locating resources, but their most essential function is to model the role of a successful student . ” </li></ul>
  13. 13. Peer Mentor <ul><li>Peer mentors may help faculty by: </li></ul><ul><li>Tutoring individual students </li></ul><ul><li>Monitoring for students who fall behind </li></ul><ul><li>Some may provide front line help with technical problems. </li></ul><ul><li>Relieve the feelings of isolation that faculty members sometimes feel in an online classroom </li></ul>
  14. 14. Online Mentor <ul><li>Interpreting faculty expectations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>One key role is to assure that students fully understand the expectations of the faculty member </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Emphasizing rubrics </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Answering questions about assignments </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Modeling excellence in assignments </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Seeking out students who show signs of struggling </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This role requires that mentors stay in close communication with the faculty member </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Online Mentor <ul><li>Modeling excellence to online students </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Commonly online classes include activities: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Discussion questions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Group projects </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Synchronous discussions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The mentor may: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Participate along with the other students </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Be the first to post a sample discussion response </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Goal is to assure that students understand the expectations – quantity and quality </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Online Mentor <ul><li>Interpersonal advising </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The culture of online learning is new </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many students in their first online class </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t understand the self-discipline required </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t understand the independent work required </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Feel unsupported in their learning endeavors </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Some students face crises during the semester </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The online mentor has a role in working with the student to help them find a comfort level </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Email, phone calls, private discussion sessions </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Online Mentor <ul><li>Ombudsperson for student needs and issues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Even more so than on campus – needs and issues arise in the lives of online students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>These students are distant and without support mechanisms we take for granted on campus </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The mentor becomes an ombudsperson </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Listener </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Information Center </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Referrer </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Wide range of needs </li></ul></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Peer Helping <ul><li>“ Peer helping is simply people helping other people. When people experience frustrations, worries, concerns, and other life events, they typically turn to their friends, not professionals, for help, advice, practical assistance, and support. ” </li></ul><ul><li>- </li></ul>
  19. 19. Establishing a Peer Mentor Program <ul><li>Getting Started </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Incremental start is wise </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Identify a handful of successful faculty members </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Begin with classes where success is most likely </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop best practices </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Refine compensation plan for mentors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Initiate training program </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Establish an assessment program </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Assessment program should loop into training program </li></ul></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Establishing a Peer Mentor Program <ul><li>Coordinating program - supporting mentors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Organizational structure possibilities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Center for teaching and learning </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Online learning center </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Advising / tutoring center </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>More content-centric than techno-centric </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Hosting unit </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Must support meetings / training </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Some mentors may be at a distance </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Provide assistance with challenging issues </li></ul></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Establishing a Peer Mentor Program <ul><li>Selecting peer mentors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Relationship to faculty member is essential </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Level of trust must be established </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Continuous flow of communication </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>UIS effective practice – faculty members choose </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Content knowledge is important </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Compensation issues may arise </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Graduate Assistants may not be able to receive additional compensation </li></ul></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Establishing a Peer Mentor Program <ul><li>Training peer mentors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Intake training will be required </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Senior mentors may “mentor” others  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tutoring and counseling staff may make valuable contributions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assessments of the program should flow into the training </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t forget to assess the training itself </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Establishing a Peer Mentor Program <ul><li>Compensation for peer mentors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In order to rely on peer mentors compensation should be a part of the program </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Tutorial/independent study credit a possibility </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Particularly for those who seek to go into teaching </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Compensation should reflect the time expectations </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Eight to ten hours a week may be appropriate </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Should be monitored by the faculty member </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>$1,200 at $8.00/hour covers 10 hours a week for 15 weeks </li></ul></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Establishing a Peer Mentor Program <ul><li>Confidentiality </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Important aspects of the mentor’s role </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Faculty members need to rely on the confidentiality of the mentor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>For exam material </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>For some class strategies </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students need to rely on the confidentiality of the mentor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>For personal problems </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>To protect against possible retribution </li></ul></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Establishing a Peer Mentor Program <ul><li>Assessing the program </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Success of the program requires monitoring </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How do we measure success? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Course completion rates </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Student performance – as in grades </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Student satisfaction </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Faculty satisfaction </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Learning effectiveness </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assessments should be shared with mentors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Assessments should feed back into class development cycle </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Summary and Conclusions <ul><li>Peer mentoring enhances online classes </li></ul><ul><li>Peer mentoring involves close communication with both faculty and students </li></ul><ul><li>Assessment and change is essential to success </li></ul><ul><li>If one student per class is retained (tuition retained) the cost of the tutor is covered – and all benefit! win-win-win! </li></ul>
  27. 27. Some Resources <ul><li>Online Peer Tutor Site: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Peer Resources </li></ul><ul><li>University and College-Based Peer Helping Programs </li></ul>