Q&A Highlights: A peer education program that works
Delvinder (Student Advisor and former ICM student) and Robert (Senior Academic Manager) recently shared the evolving strategies they adapted for their Peer Education program to meet the needs of the students and college at ICM (International College of Manitoba, Canada).
You can watch the informal Q&A session here or scroll through some of the paraphrased highlights below:
What was the starting point for Peer Education at ICM?
The college provides many resources and supports to help students to be successful in their academic studies. Peer Education is a free tutoring service for our students which has always played an important role in building a sense of community. Students who have done well in the courses we offer have been willing to help other students, sometimes even after they have matriculated on to the University of Manitoba.
We saw opportunities to improve the peer education program, to do more for student support and retention – and after the shake-up in the program last term, ICM saw amazing increases in attendance rates. In fact, the number of students participating in the program quadrupled.
What aspects were you trying to improve?
Some of the issues the program faced were student course conflicts, tutor availability, minimal staff support, declining interest of tutors due to low uptake of program and clashes with other lunch hour support services. For example, we had previously scheduled 4-hour blocks at different times depending on classroom availability. With the new program, we shifted to lunchtimes when no classes would be underway, and moved to a shorter, 1-hour time frame which led to more tutors being available. We also borrowed an idea from another Canadian Navitas college, FIC, to move the start date of the program to earlier in the term as well.
What key factors drove the success last term?
- More consistency in program delivery (for example, having the same start and end dates each term, early in the term).
- More communication (during orientation, classroom visits, reaching out to key target audiences through other support programs).
- Better marketing (including t-shirts for tutors, posters around campus, leafleting students at orientation, and creating a better advertisement on the student Portal).
- Careful scheduling during lunchtimes, twice per week.
- Sharing best practices. Communicating with other institutions such as FIC and adapting initiatives to ICM’s context, including the practice of instructor recommendations to recruit student tutors.
What incentives do you provide to student tutors?
- Student tutors are volunteers. Peer education is a relationship of equals, between students.
- Tutors are now recommended through their instructors, which can boost their confidence.
- The Volunteer Appreciation Lunch every semester, which includes people involved in other volunteer programs. This involves the college director conveying thanks for their involvement in the college community and awarding student tutors with a Certificate of Participation.
- Priority enrolment for tutors who are continuing their studies with ICM in the next semester.
Where do you see the Peer Education program in the future?
We would like to keep running peer education sessions twice per week over lunchtime but add supplementary instructions for specific subjects and perhaps some extra sessions (both student- and instructor-led) when midterm exam period approaches. We have benefited so much from sharing practice and adapting some aspects of peer education programs from other Navitas colleges. The key has been not to replicate, but to adapt and be willing to make adjustments based on the evolving needs of our students and college.