Implementation of a technology-enhanced peer mentor referral system for first-year university students
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted college administrators to re-evaluate approaches to student support. The authors advocate for technology-enhanced mentoring to provide targeted peer support for young adults transitioning into their first year at college.
A large, private university in the northeastern region of the USA piloted MentorHub, a digital app and web platform that connects paid peer mentors with first-year students, focusing on access to and navigation of campus resources. The study was exploratory and descriptive in nature.
The pilot program demonstrated acceptability and feasibility of MentorHub, as about half of the entire first year class voluntarily opted into using MentorHub to connect with their peer mentor and report and monitor their wellbeing. More specifically, there was high student engagement on the Check-In and Chat features. Moreover, the number of Check-Ins significantly positively correlated with GPA, meaning that for students who completed a higher number of Check-Ins, they had a higher GPA at the end of their first year. Check-Ins indicated that students’ primary concerns shifted over the academic year, with Career being indicated as most challenging in the beginning of the academic year and Academic Habits being indicated as most challenging throughout the rest of the year. Students’ in-app survey responses indicated that they were most likely to reach out to their peer mentor in August and January, the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters.
The MentorHub pilot program demonstrated acceptability and feasibility with this sample of university students. The findings suggest that technology-enhanced peer mentoring can offer real-time insights into student challenges and engagement patterns. Such systems can potentially provide a stepped-care approach to address student challenges, especially in the context of reduced traditional support systems during events like the COVID-19 pandemic.