EXPANDING PEER MENTORING OFFERINGS DURING COVID-19 TO AID STUDENT RETENTION AND ENHANCE EMPLOYABILITY
Ulster University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Conference name: 14th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 8-9 November, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Abstract:For the last year Ulster University has been working in partnership with Studiosity to offer a new coordinated and quality-assured Peer Mentoring Service via the university's VLE for all new first year students for delivery as a pilot initially during academic year 2021/22.
The University has a high proportion of widening access students equating to 37.4% of undergraduate students for 2021/22. The main purpose of this new service is to aid student retention as part of the University’s Widening Access and Participation Plan and provide an additional route for first year students to seek one to one support in real time via technology. Such support is especially important as new students are not only having to adapt to the transition to Higher Education but are transitioning having had their final year of schooling severely disrupted by COVID-19. Another key goal is to encourage more males to make use of the service as substantially less males make use of existing Studiosity services. During the pilot we will also promote the use of new Taking Boy Seriously principles and will encourage more males to avail of mentoring opportunities (https://www.ulster.ac.uk/conference/taking-boys-seriously-2021).
Although different his new service will complement the Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) peer mentoring scheme and the Studiosity ‘Writing Feedback’ Service that are already available and proving effective based on evaluation findings. It operates remotely on a similar platform to the existing Studiosity service offered but is different in that the students who need help, request help from their peers, student mentors, not staff. PASS offers group based facilitation mentoring and mentors are not paid. Studiosity mentors are paid as they gain mentoring work experience, training/skills development and employability benefits. The system will match on demand first years to suitable trained student mentors. It will allow first years to seek discipline specific support in real-time. Timely help can reinforce student learning, raise confidence and aid retention. It allows our talented final year student mentors to give something back to those starting their learning journey and acts a useful progression route for previous PASS mentors.
During the design phase and from the onset we will be closely monitoring engagement and evaluating objectives. This paper presentation should be of benefit to anyone interested in peer mentoring and how it can be designed, delivered and evaluated effectively using technology.
- Share key evaluation findings before and during the pilot which demonstrates the many proven benefits of peer mentoring for mentors, student mentees, staff and the university that are shaping/informing key decisions at Ulster and for this new service.
- Share information about the key stages in setting this up effectively including the importance of implementation plans/timelines, communication plans, engagement with key stakeholders, mentor ratios required, recruitment of mentors, promotion to new mentees, design and functionality decisions, training requirements etc.
- Demonstrate outputs developed during the pilot phase for promotion.
- Outline key decisions that are making it effective.
- Showcase interactive analytics dashboards that are informing key design decisions and will monitor/evidence impact during the evaluation phase.
- Share early evaluation/usage findings, lessons learned and plans beyond the pilot.
Keywords: Peer mentoring, student retention, employability, widening access, interactive analytics dashboards.