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Peer Buddies & Working Groups

Two women working on a computer together

Regardless of course modality, it can be difficult to regularly engage with individual students during class. Grouping students into peer buddies or peer working groups will give students additional opportunities to interact and learn. As Svinicki and McKeachie (2014) explain, "students are more likely to talk in small groups than in large ones, and students who are confused are more likely to ask other students questions about their difficulties or failure to understand than to reveal these problems with a faculty member present" (194). In flex classrooms, the combination of face-to-face and remote learners may reinforce these preferences. Even if students aren't confused, working with their peers can help to confirm their understanding and develop interpersonal and cognitive skills as they provide feedback, collaboratively problem solve, explain and defend positions, etc.

Peer Buddies

Consider pairing up face-to-face students and remote students into peer buddies. During synchronous sessions, ask the face-to-face students to connect to the Zoom meeting via a mobile device or computer. Just make sure in-person students don't connect via audio or make sure they have headphones connected and mute their microphones to prevent audio feedback issues. In this setup, each pair of students might not use audio at all to communicate. Instead, the face-to-face student and remote student may work together via text chat or collaboratively take notes in a shared document​ like a Google Doc.

Outside of the synchronous class sessions, you might build in additional opportunities for the buddies to collaborate in order to build community among the face-to-face and remote students. For example, you might ask the buddies to engage in peer feedback, exam preparation, or to work together on a low-stakes assignment.

Peer Working Groups

Another option is to organize face-to-face and remote students into small working groups. Similar to the peer buddies model, those small groups can work together during class sessions and also for asynchronous activities.

Jenae Cohn, Director of Academic Technology at California State University, Sacramento, suggests creating a shared workspace for those small groups. A D2L discussion topic or a Google Drive folder are both good options for shared workspaces. 


McGurtie, B. (2019, August 6). Teaching: Your Questions About Hybrid Teaching Answered. The Chronicle of Higher Education. https://www.chronicle.com/newsletter/teaching/2020-08-06?cid2=gen_login_refresh&cid=gen_sign_in

Svinicki, M. D. & W. J. McKeachie. (2019). McKeachie's Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and theory for College and University Teachers. Wadsworth.