Universities are facing severe cuts in funding and a transformation of both the economic model underpinning higher education and the relationship between students, tutors and universities and the traditional forms of support for students’ learning may be eroded. At the same time, mobile communications, instant messaging and social networking are now widespread amongst students and offer possible opportunities for developing new models of support. This paper reports on the use of instant messaging amongst peers, as part of a study of digitally-mediated communication and collaborative activities, crossing formal and informal boundaries, amongst campus-based undergraduate students, at a large university in the UK. It is argued that instant messaging conversations offers a means of sustainable peer support for students by demonstrating how they emerge from everyday practices, drawing on existing relationships and shared histories and redrawing the boundaries between formal and informal settings and practices. The importance of time is highlighted, showing how longitudinal, dialogic conversations were important for both practical and empathetic support. The potential of the instant messaging conversations in supporting the co-creation of artefacts, meaning making, motivation and affective support are also demonstrated, drawing on detailed examples of authentic conversations. However, such peer support practices remain largely invisible and therefore need acknowledging, fostering and encouraging, working alongside students to understand and develop these ideas so that peer support in universities can build on the existing practices of students themselves.
|Translated title of the contribution||Constant Companions: Instant Messaging Conversations as Sustainable Supportive Study Structures amongst Undergraduate Peers|
|Pages (from-to)||3 - 18|
|Number of pages||15|
|Journal||Computers and Education|
|Publication status||Published - Aug 2012|