July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Educational Research and Methods
The COVID-19 pandemic has isolated students as they work from home, often in different time zones and in different locations around the world. In traditional learning settings, college students have ample opportunities for face-to-face interactions to work and learn together. In contrast, in remote learning settings, social isolation drastically reduces these opportunities which puts the responsibility on faculty and administrators to offer alternative means for students to develop peer support. Through over 1,000 surveys and a convergent parallel, mixed-methods approach, this study examined peer support among students using both close-ended and short answer questions in both remote and in-person settings. Students from 16 courses junior and sophomore level classes in electrical and mechanical engineering at a large public research institution reported present and preferred levels of peer support within in-person and remote learning settings. Statistical analysis of all courses showed that there was no significant difference in perceived peer support between remote and in-person learning environments. This result was also supported by qualitative analysis of short answer questions over multiple courses coded based on the cooperative learning framework. However, when both quantitative and qualitative analysis was repeated for those individual courses that were surveyed both during in-person and remote learning settings, significant differences were observed in students' perceived peer support in some courses. These analyses suggested that course-to-course and instructor-to-instructor variations overshadowed any differences in perceived peer support. The qualitative data shed light on a different aspect of peer support differences in the two settings. Notably, qualitative data indicated that students more frequently expressed an expectation for peers teaching peers (i.e., peer instruction) when participating in study groups in-person as opposed to remotely. Furthermore, while the peer support needs were mostly similar in both settings, the tools to achieve those needs changed between the classroom and remote context. This is exemplified by student responses that were unique to the remote learning context such as the need for peers to be more respectful over chat and to be considerate of others during Zoom sessions. In the remote context, students also mentioned frequently a desire for forums or discussion boards, where they could share and check approaches and answers to problems in an online setting. This study underscores the importance of peer support regardless of setting and suggests that peer support is easier to achieve in in-person than on-line. However, engineering students are a creative lot, and they had much to offer in terms of improvements to peer support during remote learning including the creative use of a wide range of tools on Canvas, Zoom, or Slack and rules of conduct expected in chat, audio, and video features when using those tools. Students are willing to adapt to remote learning and the data from this study have provided valuable input to faculty for supporting students in doing so.
Kardam, N., & Misra, S., & Anderson, M., & Bai, Z., & Wilson, D. (2021, July), What Do Students Need from other Students? Peer Support During Remote Learning Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/38042
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