The Power of Peers: Pioneering Adult-Serving University Launches Technology Pilot to Scale Peer Support and Boost Student Belonging

National University taps digital community platform to help online learners access real-time academic support, mentoring and guidance through peer learning communities

SAN DIEGO, CA (April 11, 2024)National University (NU)—a nonprofit Minority Serving Institution that serves more than 50,000 students annually through its degree programs and another 80,000 through its workforce and professional training programs—today announced an ambitious new pilot project designed to foster student belonging and support by tapping into the power of peer engagement, discussion and academic support. The effort is now underway as a pilot project with digital community platform InScribe, which makes it possible for students to engage in classroom discussion, provide advice, and celebrate the achievements of their peers.

“Online learning has revolutionized access, affordability, and connectivity. However, realizing the full potential of online and hybrid learning experiences requires us to ensure that online learners benefit fully from the same types of human connection and support that are so valuable in traditional, in-person settings,” said Dr. Errin Heyman, associate vice president of learning experience at National University. “This is about tapping into the power of peers to create a rich and supportive online experience where students benefit from the collective support, experience and encouragement of their classmates.”

National surveys continue to highlight the prevalence of isolation and the lack of social connection as a persistent challenge among college students, often with direct effects on their academic success and overall well-being. Meanwhile, research has found that learning communities have been proven to improve students’ sense of belonging and student engagement as well as academic performance and persistence.

To help boost student engagement and connection in this online setting, National University has tapped InScribe, a peer-based community platform that enables students to connect with one another for academic support and collaboration with their classmates in a single online location. The platform facilitates the creation of online communities, connecting students, faculty, and staff seamlessly so they can ask and answer questions, access resources, and provide encouragement and support to peers. Using the platform, students can engage in communities unrelated to specific courses, encouraging networking and knowledge sharing beyond the classroom and increasing a sense of belonging.

According to existing research from InScribe partners, online learners who receive peer-to-peer support are twice as likely to persist when provided on-demand digital community resources. Research and evaluation will be a core component of the project, and the university plans to measure the program’s effectiveness by tracking its impact on student retention rates and sense of belonging. 

To evaluate the impact of the technology on student persistence and retention, the university’s Learning Experience (LeX) team joined forces with a group of internal R&D and innovation experts to launch a pilot project that will bring the digital community platform with a pilot group of more than 700 students enrolled in National University’s Sanford College of Education, which is one of largest schools of teacher education in the U.S.

“Today’s students are, in many ways, the most digitally connected and networked generation in history, yet, they are also grappling with the rapid rise of social isolation and loneliness as a society-wide challenge,” said Katy Kappler, Co-Founder and CEO at InScribe. “Peer connection and support can be a game-changer for students, particularly in the moments when the inevitable challenges of life can make their academic journey feel overwhelming. This is about surrounding learners with a community of support so they can always find encouragement, advice, and answers at these critical times.”

The integration of InScribe into the student experience is an extension of National University’s commitment to meeting the needs of diverse non-traditional, working and military learner communities through innovative pedagogy and personalized instruction.

As a veteran-founded Minority Serving Institution, National University has a student population that reflects the shifting — and highly diverse — demographics of higher education today. Well-known for its distinctive focus on serving adult learners, educators and veterans, the university has for more than 50 years honed its unique expertise in developing workforce-relevant degrees and credentials designed specifically for working adults.

For more information about National University, visit

About National University: National University, a Veteran-founded nonprofit, has been dedicated to meeting the needs of hard-working adults by providing accessible, affordable higher education opportunities since 1971. As San Diego’s largest private nonprofit university, NU offers over 190+ online and on-campus programs with flexible four-week and eight-week classes and one-to-one graduate education models designed to help students reach their goals while balancing busy lives. Since its founding, the NU community has grown to 130,000 learners per year—50,000 degree-seeking students and 80,000 workforce and professional development students—and 230,000 alumni around the globe, many of whom serve in helping industries such as business, education, health care, cybersecurity, and law and criminal justice. To learn more about National University’s new possibilities in education including next-generation education, value-rich education, and whole human education, visit

About InScribe: InScribe is a digital student support platform that leverages the power of community and artificial intelligence to connect students with the answers, resources, and individuals they need to succeed. InScribe’s digital communities cut across the traditional support silos in higher education, giving students a single place to turn when they need help—no matter the topic or time of day. Students benefit from on-demand, peer-to-peer, and student-to-expert collaboration which helps them feel more connected, increasing student engagement, satisfaction, and retention. Learn more about InScribe at

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