Journal of Academic Language and Learning, Vol 12, No 1 (2018)

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Online learning strategies to recruit and train Student Mentors: Opportunities for development and integration with face-to-face strategies

Ana Garcia-Melgar

Abstract


Recruitment, training, and ongoing development strategies are critical to the success of peer assisted learning programs (PAL), whereby experienced students provide academic and social support to fellow students. Recent iterations of PAL programs incorporate online learning strategies. Online technologies provide learning and communication tools to overcome time and geographical barriers when recruiting and training students participating in PAL. Online tools, when used in conjunction with face-to-face strategies, offer flexible learning environments that can be adapted to respond to Student Mentors’ developmental learning needs. At Victoria University, the Students Supporting Student Learning (SSSL) Unit has implemented blended training and development strategies in their multi campus Student Mentoring programs. The introduction of online recruitment and training processes involved several steps or stages for Student Mentors to complete, following a flipped classroom approach. Initial online training and recruitment processes assessed students’ expectations and motivations to become Student Mentors, and scaffolded basic mentoring skills that were further developed in subsequent face-to-face training sessions. Ongoing development opportunities included a blend of face-to-face and online weekly sessions that emphasised active learning using reflective activities, quizzes, and multimedia resources. This paper discusses the theoretical underpinnings of a blended recruitment and learning model for students providing support in PAL programs; in particular, online learning and peer learning theoretical frameworks. It also describes the process for implementing online recruitment and learning strategies for Student Mentors at Victoria University. Recommendations on how online and blended approaches can enhance recruitment and training/development in PAL programs are discussed.

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