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In this paper, we describe an IRB-approved (exempt) study designed to help us understand the impact that engaging with a peer mentor has on student learning in the online, intermediate composition classroom. Our study aimed to both identify the quantity of student interactions with peer mentors in online intermediate composition courses and to understand specifically how these interactions impacted students’ learning. The study focused on this question: “How do students describe the impact of peer mentors on their learning in the writing course?” Using a combination of qualitative methods (student survey, student interview, peer mentor reflection, and local institutional data on students’ use of campus resources), we developed four analytical themes focused on modes of engagement, expectations for online interaction, expectations for grades versus reported engagement with peer mentors, and students’ use of campus resources. Through this analysis, we argue that structuring contact points with peer mentors is not enough to engage students with this invaluable learning resource; without attention to the social quality of those contacts, we will not see increased engagement between students and peer mentors in our learning community, nor will we see students’ valuing of peer mentoring as improved.


Arts and Humanities | Educational Methods | Online and Distance Education | Rhetoric and Composition | Scholarship of Teaching and Learning


This article published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution 3.0 License.

The authors wish to thank the following colleagues from our university for providing information about students’ use of campus resources during the first three semesters of the COVID-19 pandemic: Veronica Bielat, Librarian; Melissa Crabtree, Senior Director, Campus and Classroom IT; Kate Dyki, Program Management Specialist, Enrollment Management; Christina Neal, Warrior Life Coordinator, Dean of Students’ Office; Dr. David Strauss, Dean of Students; Dr. Jule Thomas, Director of the Writing Center.

This version is the accepted, formatted manuscript. Published version attached as supplemental file; links to the version of record in published version are broken, though original issue can be accessed at (as of 2022.01.28).