Findings from this exploratory investigation suggest the following recommendations with respect to using the study buddy activity or other similar cooperative learning strategies in online distance education:

  1. The study buddy activity can be easily implemented in online higher education. Faculty and instructional designers should consider adding this and other structured cooperative learning strategies to their courses.
  2. Given that a significant barrier to participation in the study buddy activity was the fear of ending up with a poor partner as well as the lack of consensus on whether the activity should be voluntary or mandatory, a recommended action would be to keep the activity voluntary with a small incentive for providing evidence of participation.
  3. Faculty who introduce the study buddy should ensure that the students understand the potential benefits from participation such as the opportunity to consider alternate viewpoints, consider their own views more critically, and the sense of social support that can be enjoyed from working with a trusted and respected peer.
  4. One of the reasons why participants had a negative experience with the activity was that they received inadequate or superficial feedback. This concern, combined with the under-representation of the idea of the activity as a peer review process, suggests that the activity be proposed to students as a “structured peer review.”
  5. To promote cognitive restructuring or intellectual conflict, faculty should suggest strategies for students to evaluate each others’ work by providing questions for reviewers to ask of their partners such as the following:
    1. How did you come to that conclusion?
    2. How does this evidence support your conclusion?
    3. How do you know ‘X’ is true?
    4. Have you considered the evidence against your view?
  6. Faculty should consider the following structural ideas from Open Scholar (“Open Peer Review,” n.d.) for the study buddy activity:
    1. to encourage greater accountability, make the peer review process open to all course participants by requiring reviews to be posted to a discussion forum;
    2. make the review a citable resource;
    3. encourage the process of cognitive restructuring by suggesting that participants incorporate their partner’s review of their work into their own.
  7. Faculty may want to introduce the study buddy activity on a smaller scale by including it as an option for only one assignment rather than for all assignments.
  8. Instructional designers should promote the practice of structured peer review in their course designs for graduate-level online courses.
  9. Faculty and instructional designers should consider how synchronous technologies such as SkypeTM Adobe ConnectTM or Blackboard CollaborateTM could be promoted to students as ways to support cooperative efforts.
  10. Faculty and instructional designers should consider how asynchronous technologies such as wikis, blogs, or social networking software could be promoted to students as ways to support cooperative efforts.