Using online chat to enhance peer learning while on fieldwork placements

Sharynne McLeod, Shane Dawson, Louise Berg


Students in applied science disciplines in the School of Community Health at Charles Sturt University undertake fieldwork in urban, rural and remote areas throughout Australia and overseas (e.g. Vietnam) in each of the four years of their course. As students are situated in a diversity of locations, the ability to offer academic support is greatly reduced, whilst the opportunity for peer support is non-existent. Online chat facilities are introduced to the students in first year and are available each time students are on fieldwork placements. During a specified time each week, students and their lecturer logon to discuss issues of importance to students. Peer learning and collegial support are significant outcomes of these sessions. Since its inception in 1999, the use of online chat for fieldwork support has been adopted by other programs such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy and social work in Australia and overseas.

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