Academics are continuously challenged with learning new skills using technology to deliver online learning. Thankfully, at UTS, we can tap into the expertise of academics that have already used some of these technologies, and have gained considerable skills and knowledge. By sharing similar and common experiences through peer-to-peer learning, faculty members can learn and grow with each other in an internal knowledge-sharing environment that can enhance team dynamics.
Types of peer support include professional conversations, informal or formal mentoring, show and tell and just-in-time support. Benefits include the support of active learning, creating a culture of learning, encouraging networking and providing a ‘safe space’ for participants to take risks.
The learning loop
There are four stages in the ‘learning loop’: gain knowledge, practice by applying that knowledge, get feedback and reflect. Peer-to-peer learning includes all four stages. Furthermore, reflection conversation between peers tend to further foster the difficult skills of giving and accepting honest, constructive feedback.
While there are differences of experience, and sometimes status, the common ethos of academic work is collegial. Colleagues are members of a participative culture in which they share decisions and obligations.David Boud, UTS
The move to Canvas
As we move towards getting more subjects into our new Learning management system, Canvas, it becomes imperative that academics support each other in this journey. Through the postgraduate implementation of LX Transformation, there has been a significant accumulation of rich expertise in the use of this online platform within the faculties which can support the process of mentoring and peer-to-peer learning.
Case studies: FEIT and Law
The Law faculty have adopted a number of strategies for peer support in the transition to Canvas. Dr Evana Wright had been involved in the shift to Canvas ‘Master of Intellectual Property’ with the Postgraduate Learning Design Team. Being an early adopter to lead the project would be a beneficial step in supporting the faculty for future implementations.
The Law faculty ran a number of sessions at the end of Autumn 2020 where staff could share their experiences of teaching in Canvas with others as part of a ‘best practice’ series – participants included Peter Raffles and Dr Sophie Riley (remote teaching in block mode using Canvas), Jackie Jones (‘Assessing Oral Presentations’ in Canvas). Hoping to leverage the experience of our ‘Canvas Champions’ in the next phase of the transition to Canvas, this faculty will draw on the experience of those who have already moved to Canvas in the next phase – especially where they are members of the teaching teams for core subjects.
In the faculty of Engineering and IT, the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (SCEE) has been active throughout the COVID-19 period in reflecting on academic experiences of developing subject delivery through Canvas in the 2020 autumn and spring sessions. Held every 3 weeks, dedicated Canvas workshops are run within the School for its three discipline group areas where presentations are given by subject coordinators who volunteer to share their experiences of using Canvas for delivering the postgraduate subject offerings in the School.
Finally, both faculties are capturing practice using a faculty ‘sandpit’ to share examples, templates and resources. This includes example skills modules that staff can adapt for their own subjects, addressing frequently asked questions and sharing case studies of best practice.
These case studies showed that in an environment where social learning is encouraged, the participants are more engaged, more collaboration is initiated and learning is improved significantly.