Social networking tools allow both students and their tutors to maintain unobtrusive and efficient relationships whilst fostering collegiality. There has been a rapid growth in students’ use of social networking tools in general and this has inevitably led to their particular use in establishing their sense of belonging and course identity. Social networking tools have also provided students with ways of fostering a sense of collective self-esteem (Gangadharbatla, 2008). Arguably, it can be easier to develop and maintain a social network online than in real life (Ahn el, 2007). First year Computer and Network Engineering students and their course leader will provide their personal reflections of using Facebook to develop and manage their course relationship.
Both through observation and experience it is evident that a powerful student support mechanism is the small scale peer support groups (PSG) that often form naturally within the course cohort. This poster describes a mechanism for encouraging the development of such groups. As part of a first year module on the mathematics programme, students work in small groups on a project during semester 1, leading to a report, poster and presentation. The purpose is twofold – firstly to initiate a peer support group from day 1, and secondly to help students develop some key employability skills, such as team work, organisation, leadership, interpersonal skills and communication. A final year student volunteer is recruited to facilitate this group, through the Peer Assisted Learning scheme. This scheme has been in operation for four years, having been initiated through a project funded by the Centre for Promoting Learner Autonomy. The final year PAL leaders, most of whom have been on industrial placement, develop additional employability skills and an enhanced CV through engagement with this process. This poster will summarise the scheme and provide evidence, in the form of student reflective comments, on its benefits. PAL Leader: “It’s certainly made me more confident speaking up in front of a group of people I don’t know. It gave me a good idea of how people work together in a group too, something that you don’t notice as much if you’re actually working within the group.” First year student: “I learnt that to meet new people isn’t as hard as I thought and that we having a group of friends to bounce ideas from one another is a good thing.”
Click to view poster: 240 SHU_LTA_2013_Waldock_PSL