Introducing the SAPS system and a corresponding allocation mechanism for synchronous online reciprocal peer support activities

Gijs De Bakker, Jan Van Bruggen, Wim Jochems, Peter Sloep

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    While student populations in higher education are becoming more heterogeneous, recently several attempts have been made to introduce online peer support to decrease the tutor load of teachers. We propose a system that facilitates synchronous online reciprocal peer support activities for ad hoc student questions: the Synchronous Allocated Peer Support (SAPS) system. Via this system, students with questions during their learning are allocated to competent fellow-students for answering. The system is designed for reciprocal peer support activities among a group of students who are working on the same fixed modular material every student has to finish, such as courses with separate chapters. As part of a requirement analysis of online reciprocal peer support to succeed, this chapter is focused on the second requirement of peer competence and sustainability of our system. Therefore a study was conducted with a simulation of a SAPS-based allocation mechanism in the NetLogo simulation environment and focuses on the required minimum population size, the effect of the addition of extra allocation parameters or disabling others on the mechanism's effectiveness, and peer tutor load spread in various conditions and its influence on the mechanism's effectiveness. The simulation shows that our allocation mechanism should be able to facilitate online peer support activities among groups of students. The allocation mechanism holds over time and a sufficient number of students are willing and competent to answer fellow-students' questions. Also, fine-tuning the parameters (e.g. extra selection criteria) of the allocation mechanism further enhances its effectiveness.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2011


    • Peer Support
    • Peer Allocation
    • System Dynamics
    • Distance Learning


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