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Western Governors University Adds Peer-to-Peer Support to Competency-Based Courses

Western Governors University's College of Information Technology has adopted InScribe's digital community platform to bring a peer-to-peer support model to its competency-based courses. Students access their digital communities via a "need help" link on each activity within WGU's digital curriculum, allowing them to connect with peers and faculty, ask questions, find information, and share ideas any time, anywhere. They can also see what questions and comments have already been posted about a particular topic.

The InScribe platform enables WGU to eliminate "time and place restrictions" for students seeking support, the company explained. That flexibility is particularly important for self-paced learners: "Students can seek help from their peers anywhere, anytime, especially after hours when faculty might not be available. Moreover, students who accelerate through the materials at a faster pace can act as resources for students who are still working through initial concepts."

"Not only do our students learn in a self-paced manner, but our degree programs require some pretty complex interactions. We needed a support model that allowed students to collaborate effectively and tackle these notoriously complicated concepts," added Mike Peterson, associate dean and program director, Computer Science and Software at WGU, in a statement. "With InScribe, we are building the sense of community our online students crave while also giving them the tools they need to dig in and problem-solve with each other. InScribe's platform is agile; it works with us and not against us. Information is easily shareable and searchable, and we can keep better track of everything that is being posted."

In a pilot of the InScribe platform in the College of Information Technology's Bacherlor of Science in Computer Science program, WGU found that peer support "sped time to answer and reinforced learning," according to a news announcement. "Learning is not only taking place within each course but also within each community," said Peterson. "We are seeing students genuinely wanting to help each other. They respond quickly and posts are thoughtful, diverse, and well-rounded." The College of Information Technology now plans to expand the use of digital communities across a larger student population.

"Traditional support mechanisms can limit students' ability to get the help they need when they need it, regardless of what time of day it is and where they are within the curriculum," commented Katy Kappler, CEO of InScribe. "WGU's vision to create a digital community that emphasizes active and ongoing peer-to-peer support encourages students to more deeply interact and engage. Even when learners move at different paces through the material, they know that they have a team of people they can count on to help them understand and master the curriculum."

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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