Students from four different disciplines work together to develop and implement a social media campaign
‘Don’t Make Pour Decisions’ Instagram Mock Up

Dr Sall Lewis and Dr Jane Andrews

Dr Sally Lewis (l) and Dr Jane Andrew
University of South Australia
Sally.Lewis@unisa.edu.au

First offered at UniSA in 2016, Peer2Peer is an annual, interdisciplinary student project-based course. The main learning objective is to develop important graduate employability skills including collaboration and communication.

Peer2Peer brings together students from the communication, graphic design, IT and psychology disciplines to research, develop and implement a social media campaign, in order to meet the requirements of real clients. In 2016 students addressed the challenge of young people becoming involved in online violent extremism, while in 2017 students worked with the South Australian Police to address public concern on the issue of safe partying and alcohol fuelled violence.

Peer to peer website

Full details of 'Peer2Peer: Interdisciplinary student teamwork'

Disciplines included in the WIL activity

Creative industries

Model of WIL activity

Interdisciplinary industry based student project

Brief description of WIL activity

First offered at UniSA in 2016, Peer2Peer is an annual, interdisciplinary student project-based course. The main learning objective is to develop important graduate employability skills including collaboration and communication. Peer2Peer brings together students from the communication, graphic design, IT and psychology disciplines to research, develop and implement a social media campaign, in order to meet the requirements of real clients. In 2016 students addressed the challenge of young people becoming involved in online violent extremism, while in 2017 students worked with the South Australian Police to address public concern on the issue of safe partying and alcohol fuelled violence.

Length of time the WIL activity has been/was in operation

2016 – Ongoing. Planning for the 2018 project is underway with the South Australian Motor Accident Commission as the key partner.

Who benefits from the WIL activity?

Students articulate the benefit they gain from Peer2Peer as ‘great for preparing me for the workplace’, ‘very beneficial for life after Uni’ and ‘the real world exposure made the work meaningful and different’. The student alumni who assist with Peer2Peer also recognised how their participation further developed their leadership, collaboration and communication skills.

The Peer2Peer social media campaigns addressing online violent extremism, safe partying and alcohol fuelled violence, ensure there is a direct benefit to the community. The link between the project partners, community and the students will be further reinforced in 2018 with the project focus on addressing Drug Driving behaviour.

How does the WIL activity demonstrate good practice and/or innovation?

Drawing on an experiential networked approach to learning, Peer2Peer demonstrates good practice through addressing the important concept of group-work (which is not always viewed favourably by students) and the associated lifelong learning benefits. By measuring the participation of all students in a multi-disciplinary team any perceived challenges with equal effort are overcome.

Peer2Peer is innovatively designed as it can be adapted without requiring additional funding given students already undertake relevant courses in their own schools. Students are selected based on a mix of GPA, attitude and engagement – in turn reinforcing the project positioning as a sought after final year opportunity. The high degree of client involvement, the identification of real world problems that are directly relevant to the student cohort, and the actual implementation of the campaigns combine to make Peer 2 Peer unique.

How adaptable is the WIL activity to other disciplines, sectors, teaching practices etc?

Peer2Peer is adaptable to other disciplines as demonstrated by the following summary of the project teaching approach: students are divided into interdisciplinary teams for the duration of the course and attend weekly 1/1.5 hour discipline specific seminars and 2 hour group workshops, facilitated by course coordinators and invited experts. The student teams also work independently collaborating online and via self-organised face to face sessions. In the final week, teams pitch their social media campaigns to an expert panel and are given a team score. Students are also assessed individually at discipline level based on participation and specific learning outcomes.

How sustainable is the WIL activity beyond its immediate implementation?

In 2018 Peer2Peer will be offered for the third time. Linking this project to disciplinary specific courses already embedded in existing Bachelor degrees, ensures the concept is sustainable going forward in terms of funding and student participation. The final student work is of such a high standard that it is perceived to add value to the industry partners – ensuring their time and participation is a worthwhile investment. Additional WIL research opportunities provided through Peer2 Peer are also important going forward. Linking research and WIL is fundamental to continually improving our teaching and in turn developing the best graduates.

How is the success of the WIL activity evaluated?

In addition to reviewing student results we use qualitative survey data, individual sociometric badges and a mobile app to create de-identified speaker data and dialogue patterns. This allows us to analyse participation rates by discipline, team and contrasting periods in the project timeline to develop an understanding of the students’ perceived benefits and challenges of group work, and how their interactions change over the duration of the project.  Research was incorporated into the second offering of the course in 2017 and a refereed paper ‘Interdisciplinary teamwork in an authentic project-based learning environment’ has been accepted and will be presented at the HERDSA (Re)Valuing Higher Education Conference in July 2018.

What are the wider impacts of the WL activity beyond completion?

The positive student experience with interdisciplinary teamwork in this project course aligns with the main research finding in respect to learning outcomes. Students have first-hand experience with the diversity of working teams and expand their knowledge beyond their own discipline. The research also shows that teamwork skills significantly improve by the end of the course.

The wider reach of Peer2Peer is evidenced through the accepted research paper and cross institutional promotion. The continued involvement of industry partners is evidence of the value they associate with the project, with two of the campaigns from 2017 adapted by the South Australian Police.

How does the WIL activity approach the preparation, implementation and reflection phases of WIL?

The Peer2Peer teaching team follow a clear schedule that ensures project objectives, discipline specific course objectives and the partner brief are met. Students are provided with formative and summative milestones including presenting findings and status reports. In the final week of the course, teams pitch their social media campaign to an expert panel that includes academics and representatives from the industry partner. Two weeks before the formal pitch, teams are given the opportunity to present their project ideas to other teams, as a way to gain feedback and to improve on their project and final presentation to the client. Given the occasional challenges of student group work, students are supported during all phases of Peer2Peer through the appointment of a student ‘Team Manager’ (generally from the Psychology field) and continuous 2-way communication with the teaching team. The availability of a designated neutral space for the students to come together during the project also assists in team building and applying newly learnt personal skills to a work like environment.

What are the learning outcomes of the WIL activity and how do they link to graduate attributes?

To examine what students learned from this WIL activity, anonymous qualitative responses to the open-ended survey were analysed. The frequently occurring theme was learning about inter-disciplinary skills and knowledge; specifically learning about different terminologies and processes such as coding or design. Students recognised learning about working with diverse groups; a comment from one student was “It’s helped me understand that although we specialise in our own areas, perspectives from alternate disciplines can help shape the product positively”. The idea of work-readiness, how multidisciplinary knowledge would be required in the workplace, and how to manage a real project were also identified.

What are the plans for the WIL activity in the future?

One area of future focus for Peer2Peer involves the increased engagement of alumni. Given the excellent student satisfaction ratings with the project, and the pivotal skills and knowledge students identify they gain as a result of their participation, we plan to integrate alumni as specialist advisors. Establishing this bridge between alumni and current students promotes employability while ensuring the teaching team gain continued exposure to emerging industry trends and opportunities to expand the project. As our alumni progress their careers and extend their own industry networks, their continued involvement with Peer2Peer will ensure the concept remains topical and highly valued.