A peer community approach to research education: A case study of a student-initiated online community


  • Erica Ho The University of Sydney




Communities of practice, online communities , peer support, research education


This paper reports the trends and challenges of research education in Australia, and presents a case study of a student-initiated community for Higher Degree Research (HDR) students at a public university. The study aims to determine whether an online Community of Practice (CoP) has developed among HDR students without any design effort from the university, and whether the community helped HDR students achieve connectedness without face-to-face interactions. The results indicate that the community is a spontaneous, distributed, small but diverse HDR CoP within a faculty. Feedback from the members show that the technology employed in the community is appropriate for peer communication, knowledge sharing and collaboration in the CoP, but technical problems on the communication technology could discourage members’ engagement and participation. The findings also reveal that length of the membership has a statistically significant impact on HDR student connectedness, but technology satisfaction and virtual mode do not.