Ulster University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2020 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 1528-1537
ISBN: 978-84-09-24232-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2020.0389
Conference name: 13th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 9-10 November, 2020
Location: Online Conference
Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) is an internationally renowned and quality assured academic support and mentoring scheme with recognised networks.

It has been running effectively at Ulster University in some areas since 2010. The impact and evaluation of a recent pilot (2017-2020) to expand and further embed benefits institutionally for widening access and inclusivity objectives, within more disciplines is in its write-up phase. During the pilot, 289 new mentors were recruited, across many new programmes. A suite of interactive dashboards has been created using University data to better understand mentor profiles, mentee profiles, student success and learning gain.

PASS has 21 guiding principles. It involves trained student mentors facilitating weekly study sessions with groups of younger year student mentees face-to-face, for the most part. Some part-time programmes used blended methods to offer flexibility of pace, place and mode. Mentees are encouraged to set the session agenda with their mentors and during sessions they learn collaboratively in groups. Mentors facilitate discussions and lead group work. Mentors meet weekly with academic leads for debrief sessions to provide staff with regular and ongoing feedback within agreed confidentiality parameters.

The digital pivot from face-to-face to online learning in response to Covid-19 pandemic posed significant new challenges for the effective delivery of PASS during 2020. Student PASS leader mentors required bespoke new support and training to effectively use a range of synchronous and asynchronous technologies as they pivoted to support mentees digitally. As Ulster University has announced that during the 2020/21 there will be a blended approach to teaching and learning which may include lectures and other teaching online, new longer term training and operational methods have been designed, informed by lessons learned and evaluation findings to date, to ensure the effective digital delivery of peer mentoring and debrief sessions during 2020-21.

This session should benefit anyone interested in peer mentoring and how it can be delivered effectively using digital methods in times of crisis. It will:

*share key evaluation findings before and during the PASS pilot which demonstrates the many benefits of PASS for the pass leaders (mentors), student mentees, staff and the university. A Pre and Post Survey has been administered to both mentees and mentors each year of the pilot.

*showcase interactive dashboards that have been created to evidence impact during the evaluation phase.

*communicate lessons learned and demonstrate outputs developed during the pilot phase and digital pivot to support staff and students including a Blackboard VLE support area with a range of resources, digital stories captured by students to advertise the scheme to younger years, digital recruitment talks and animations to promote engagement and methods carefully designed to keep students engaged.

Some stakeholders have communicated:

“Seeing the students develop to having the confidence in themselves to tackle any challenges in their way shows that PASS just does so much good” [Mentor]

“I would love to become a pass leader, as I find my pass group extremely helpful.” [Mentee]

“Learning, communication and confidence improved for both mentees and mentors” [Staff]

We must adapt and share new pedagogies to ensure recognised benefits continue whilst COVID-19 restricts normal face-to-face contact.
Digital, online peer mentoring, Covid-19, widening access, inclusivity, student support, learning gain, student engagement, employability.