Structure and messaging techniques for online peer learning systems that increase stickiness

Yasmine Kotturi, Chinmay Kulkarni, Michael S. Bernstein, Scott Klemmer
ACM Conference on Learning at Scale, 2015
When students work with peers, they learn more actively, build richer knowledge structures, and connect material to their lives. However, not every peer learning experience online sees successful adoption. This paper articulates and addresses three adoption challenges for global-scale peer learning. First, peer interactions struggle to bootstrap critical mass. However, class incentives can signal im-portance and spur initial usage. Second, online classes have limited peer visibility and awareness, so students often feel alone even when surrounded by peers. We find that highlighting interdependence and strengthening norms can mitigate this issue. Third, teachers can readily access “big” aggregate data but not “thick” contextual data that helps build intuitions, so software should guide teachers’ scaffolding of peer interactions. We illustrate these challenges through studying 8,500 students’ usage of two peer learning platforms, Talkabout and PeerStudio. This paper measures efficacy through sign-up and participation rates and the structure and duration of student interactions.