A Family Affair

By Danielle Pope

A Family Affair
How online universities are creating new study opportunities

Research into the effects of what academia call ‘peer learning’ – where students learn from and with each other – has shown there are academic and psychological benefits to studying with a peer. According to a study by David Boud et al published in Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, the benefits of peer learning “have long been recognised and are especially relevant today”.

There are advantages in this approach for universities, too, with financial pressure on funding meaning staff are often teaching more students. As Boud says, peer learning “has considerable promise as it involves maintaining the level of student learning without more input from staff.”

Now consider the benefits of having that study buddy as a family member. Such was the case for recent Swinburne Online graduate Lynette Moloney, who graduated with her son, Hayden. Lynette returned to study as a mature-age student, and said her son helped her maintain focus. “There were times I thought of giving up, but Hayden’s encouragement reminded me of the reason why I started studying in the first place and that kept me going,” she said.

Swinburne psychologist Nikki Rickard says this kind of social support not only helps students reach their goals but can also help them feel much happier while studying. “According to positive psychology research, relationships are one of the key pillars of happiness,” she explains. “A problem shared is a problem halved, and social support has been found to reduce emotional distress for students.”

The challenge for the future will be how institutions can enhance the benefits of these learning procedures while maintaining policies regarding academic integrity.


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