Collaborative Learning: How Peer Learning Communities Help Non-Traditional Students Advance their Careers

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

Non-traditional, online students benefit significantly from peer support models that promote engagement and collaboration with classmates. This session will focus on the use of digital learning communities to create on-demand spaces where students in career advancement programs can connect and work together to gain a deeper understanding of learning concepts.

Extended Abstract

Non-traditional students seek programs that have the flexibility and focus to support both their careers goals and their busy schedules. Kenzie Academy, a division of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), has stepped up to meet this need through a series of virtual, non-degree certificate programs that help individuals achieve career transitions and promotions in software engineering roles.

Students in these programs are balancing busy lives, including work and families, and aren’t always learning on the same schedule. Kenzie Academy recognized that they needed a unique approach in order to successfully support these learners and help them build the important connections with classmates that help them stay motivated and on track.

In response, Kenzie Academy adopted a digital community strategy, integrating these virtual spaces into their online courses so students have an “always available” space to collaborate with classmates and instructional leadership and build a deeper understanding of course and programming concepts. Kenzie Academy's digital communities remove time and place barriers so students can find help and collaborate anytime, anywhere. Students can search for solutions, pose questions to the community, and jump in to help each other on evenings and weekends when instructors may not be available. This peer-to-peer approach to learning also helps students develop key skills required for a successful career as a software engineer, such as teamwork, clear communication, and knowledge sharing.

Digital communities ensure students aren’t alone during their learning journey. Whether they have a question about the content, want to bounce an idea off of a colleague, or need a confidence boost, this support model makes it easy for them to find answers, give feedback and build relationships that will support them now and as they move forward in their career.

In this presentation, attendees will learn how digital communities can be used to promote a sense of belonging, support peer discussion and collaboration, boost engagement and improve learning outcomes.  Attendees will be engaged throughout the presentation through the use of live polling and by sharing their own experience replicating peer support models in the online environment.