Peer Support for Dissertations in an Online Environment

Cheng, W. , Kushwah, L. and Selvaretnam, G. (2021) Peer Support for Dissertations in an Online Environment. Teaching and Learning Conference 2021, 06-08 Jul 2021.

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Writing a dissertation is an important aspect of students’ journey in the final year of their undergraduate studies. In our university this is compulsory, where students showcase their ability to carry out independent research. Each student is allocated a dedicated supervisor to give guidance. While this can be an exciting experience, students often feel lonely because each dissertation is unique, with its own challenges. Previous cohorts have suggested that they missed discussions with peers like they do in other courses and it would be useful if they had such an opportunity for the dissertation as well. This sense of isolation and feeling a sense of despair when one’s research hits obstacles can be much more acute in an online environment. Can students be more actively involved in this process other than writing their own dissertation? We (3 members of staff) decided to create opportunities for students themselves to play a supportive part of each other’s dissertation process. As researchers, we know that discussing our work with peers is beneficial for all concerned for many reasons. Moreover, at the end of this exercise, we would be able to find out how to involve the students more effectively in enhancing the dissertation experience. This is how we carried out the peer support for dissertations in 2020/21. This is an informal support system with no rules, regulations and marks involved. • Students were invited to sign up into groups which will have a maximum of 8 members. Once the groups are finalised, you will be able to see who is in your group so that you can contact each other. • Organised online session 1 – just after the groups were formed. Students were given some general words of advice and encouragement by us and then put into break out rooms. Students were given a few questions to discuss in addition to get to know each other and about how their dissertations are going. • Organised online session 2 – 1/3rd point. Students were given the opportunity to ‘The Way of Self- Discovery’ survey which was explained by a Careers Adviser, who also discussed about the link between their dissertation and career interviews. Students engaged in some group discussions followed by Q & A with us. • Organised online session 3 – 2/3rd point. A few past students were invited to give short talks about their experience and some guidance as students were coming to the end of their dissertation. Again, they were put in break out rooms with some questions to help in the discussion. We collected students’ thoughts about this experience through survey questionnaires, the findings of which will be useful to the Learning and Teaching community. We will explain how we carried out this initiative and how effective it was from our perspective. Moreover, the analysis of the student responses would shed light about the benefits and the problems. If this were to be conducted when students are back in person, the design could be different. Dissertation is an integral part of a degree programme and a critical aspect of student experience. Such an initiative can be replicated in other universities or improved upon, tailored to suit their situation.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Additional Information:This paper has also been presented at the University of Glasgow L&T Conference 2021 and Chartered Association of Business School LTSE Conference 2021. Moreover, it was invited to be submitted for publication and is under review at Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Kushwah, Dr Lovleen and Selvaretnam, Dr Geethanjali and Cheng, Dr Wenya
Authors: Cheng, W., Kushwah, L., and Selvaretnam, G.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC5201 Education extension. Adult education. Continuing education
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Economics
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