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A Guide to Implementing Virtual Peer Assisted Learning (VPAL)

Part one: Project description

Project fundholder / Project leader

Shazia Ahmed & Lorna Love

Funding awarded



University of Glasgow

Project title

A Guide to Implementing Virtual Peer Assisted Learning (VPAL)

Project description

Over the last couple of years, we have implemented Virtual Peer Assisted Learning (VPAL) using semi-moderated Facebook groups for level one Mathematics and Computing Science. These have provided real opportunities for virtual academic dialogue between classmates, senior students and support staff, thus broadening students’ educational experiences.

Following the CLL workshop, we have had many requests from colleagues in HEIs around the UK who have expressed an interest in meeting with us to discuss ways in which Facebook groups can be incorporated into their students’ learning. We feel that it would be more efficient to run a training session since it would be impossible for us to personally visit all of the institutions. This will provide us with the opportunity to offer more hands-on support than would be possible in a short meeting.

Project aims and objectives

The aim of the project is to provide a training session at the University of Glasgow for staff in Higher Education Institutions, demonstrating how we have set up, run and moderated our VPAL groups. The session will consist of sharing good practice and provide support to staff who are interested in trying out VPAL with their students.

The event will be run by a group of experienced social media users. The course will consist of:

  • an overview of how we have used Facebook groups/pages/events and how alternative platforms (e.g. VLE forums, Google+, Yammer, etc.) can be utilised
  • first-hand student perspectives on the use of Facebook for learning
  • an in-depth look at privacy settings
  • ways of semi-automating processes to support the groups more efficiently
  • an opportunity to ask questions from the course instructors and students
  • an opportunity to work in groups to mock-up an outline of either a Facebook group/page and making decisions about how to organise it, moderate it and populate it throughout an academic year
  • participate in a hands-on lab session to put some of the discussions from earlier into practice
  • guidelines for social media use

Intended outputs (resources e.g. documents, videos, learning objects etc.)

Training materials for a pack for participants to include information sheets, handouts and guidelines

Intended Outcomes for staff

After the course participants should be able to

  • confidently and efficiently set up a virtual space for their students,
  • understand relevant privacy settings
  • implement a sustainable structure that will facilitate administration of groups
  • train ‘senior’ students to be facilitators in groups for younger students
  • join our Facebook group (Managing Virtual Learning Spaces) for ongoing support and discussion

Intended Outcomes for Students

After the course, the participants’ students will have the opportunity to interact with their peers, take part in academic & social discussions and increase student engagement.

Funding outline (how money is to be spent; list items or costs)

Printing costs for training pack = £100

Catering = £400 (standard UoG hospitality charges)

Activities (brief outline of work)

Plan date and book venue

Advertise event

Book catering

Prepare agenda and materials for workshop

Recruit students

Activities during the workshop are described above

Dissemination routes (e.g. events, posters, webinars…)

Blog posts, present at national conferences and HEA events. The Facebook group (Managing Virtual Learning Spaces) will also function as a dissemination route.

Part two: Final outputs

Project resources inventory (list of items created)

Presentation/notes from workshop (link found on blog and Facebook page – see below)

Worksheet: group tasks

Worksheet: Points to consider when implementing VPAL

Sample Timeline

Link to project resources and blog


Facebook group: ‘Social Media and Learning Communities’ (formerly named ‘Managing Virtual Learning Spaces’)

Blog post:

How did the project utilise and/or develop digital literacies in the participants?

Attach a mapping of key project activities onto

The participants had the opportunity to take part in a practical session where they were able to:

  • create Facebook profiles, groups and pages
  • personalise privacy settings and test this out with each other
  • add people on to groups, join groups, invite others to join their groups

We had invited some students from our Glasgow University groups to come along to this workshop. The delegates took the opportunity to talk to them in detail about their use and expectations of using Facebook groups.

General Issues raised by project

We found people were keen to use Facebook but felt inhibited or worried about the repercussions from other colleagues/academics

Barriers / Challenges e.g. accessibility

Negative attitudes of other staff

Possible block on these sites in university library or labs

Solutions deployed to above issues and challenges

Raise awareness of the benefits of using social media, for example, create information leaflets to form part of staff training

How the roles/activities of the participant’s learning landscape was effectively changed by the project

It gave some of the participants the confidence to try out the use of social media with students. They also went away with different ideas of how to implement virtual PAL and the potential issues and logistics they would need to deal with

Recommendations to future projects of this nature

Create information leaflets for CPD