Peer Mentorship: An Opportunity to Strengthen Information and Communication Skills

iStudent Blog

Published: April 16, 2019 by Havilah Steinman

Students at the iSchool in the Master’s in Library and Information Science and Post-Master’s Certificate programs have excellent classes to choose from. Every new student begins with INFO 203 Online Learning at the beginning of their program to become acclimated to the rigorous academic expectations of their work, as well as the technology used in the program. Peer mentors are a pivotal part of the INFO 203 process, and Debbie Faires, director of online learning, has just opened up the application for peer mentors in the Fall 2019 semester! This past semester, I had the opportunity to work alongside several other INFO 203 peer mentors. In this post, I share some of their insight about how the mentorship experience benefited them.

A bit about our interviewees:

  • Jax Peterson works as a 6th grade teacher, is in his last semester finishing up his ePortfolio and plays indoor soccer.
  • Jessica Carrillo works as an instructional aid and enjoys line dancing in her spare time.
  • Quinn Tomlinson is a Master’s Program Advisor at UC San Diego and is an avid runner.

Why did you decide to apply to be a peer mentor? 

Jax Peterson: I remember really appreciating having one when I took INFO 203. I also work in education, so this kind of thing was right up my alley!

Jessica Carrillo: I believe I wanted more experience and I wanted to give back by aiding students starting the program.

Quinn Tomlinson: I wanted to gain further experience which would be applicable to the field. I found this to be a valuable opportunity to marry my recently acquired knowledge of instruction, with my desire to give back to the program.

What did you enjoy most about the peer mentor experience?

Jax Peterson: I really enjoyed getting to know the other peer mentors! Everyone was really great and supportive, and we built a nice community. I also loved seeing the difference between the K-12 students that I’m used to, and the adult learners peer mentors are responsible for helping.

Jessica Carrillo: The students were very enthusiastic and took me seriously, which was nice for me. I also enjoyed working with Professor Faires, who provided a wealth of patience and guidance.

Quinn Tomlinson: I did not have any experience with an online learning environment prior to this program, and I found the support and reassurance of my peer mentor to be a huge source of comfort.  It was encouraging to hear from a peer who had been through the same challenges as I faced.

What aspect of the peer mentor experience did you find most challenging? 

Jax Peterson: For me, I found it challenging to really build solid relationships with students. Because of the early start date of INFO 203, students were kind of all in different places, which made the forums a little wonky. So keeping in touch with everyone was very individualized, and that was hard to shuffle.

Jessica Carrillo: Keeping up or trying to slow down, as oxymoron-ic as it sounded.

Quinn Tomlinson: I had difficulty waiting patiently for submissions. I often found myself refreshing Canvas and looking for new discussion posts more often than was probably healthy.  I was prepared to have students submit at the last moment, but anticipated more students wanting to get the course out of the way early. 

Do you believe you learned helpful skills during the peer mentor experience? If so, what are those skills?

Jax Peterson: I absolutely learned helpful skills. I think one of the most important things we did was plan and run a meet up session. That really forced me to use and develop a lot of skills, such as collaboration, planning, building a presentation, presenting orally and managing a conference session.

Jessica Carrillo: I learned how to grade online and that was helpful; I also learned to impart my experiences as a teaching tool. 

Quinn Tomlinson: I think it is always valuable to put yourself in another’s position. Having taken the course myself, it was easy to understand the stumbling blocks students faced.  It also allowed me the opportunity to fully appreciate the sheer amount of time which goes into setting up a course and the maintenance and attention required throughout. 

Do you believe the time required for the peer mentor project is manageable for students who would be taking other classes and/or working at the same time?

Jax Peterson: I managed to do it while working and taking a small course load. Because of the early start and finish [of the INFO 203 course], it actually makes for a nice class to do alongside other classes, because although it’s quite busy for a few weeks, it calms down and leaves you with a lot of breathing room for a huge chunk of the semester.

Jessica Carrillo: I believe this is manageable for students taking on only one other course and mostly for students who are well known to be good at sorting out their priorities. I also suggest being patient and enthusiastic about the students. 

Quinn Tomlinson: I took on the peer mentor project in the midst of relocating, starting a new job and volunteering. Despite the fact that I paired this with my e-Portfolio, the project can be balanced appropriately with good time management and the establishment of boundaries. Setting aside dedicated time to work on the project, and communicating your availability to students is essential for success. 

I’m In! How Do I Apply?

Interested in becoming a peer mentor? To ensure you meet the requirements, check your email for a notification entitled Apply to be a Peer Mentor. To apply, complete and submit this application form: https://goo.gl/H2mlYK. The deadline for applications is Monday, April 22. Results will be sent by the end of the day on Wednesday, April 24. You may direct any questions to Debbie Faires at debbie.faires@sjsu.edu.