Virtual Knowledge Market

By Melanie Rabine-Johnson, Digital Student Experience Specialist and Jen Torreano, Knowledge Market Manager

In Grand Valley’s Knowledge Market, highly-trained peer consultants offer support for crucial interdisciplinary skills: reading, writing, speaking, and researching.  Although the Knowledge Market is currently located in the Mary Idema Pew Library on the Allendale campus and the Steelcase Library on the Grand Rapids campus, it houses a variety of academic support services including University Libraries, the Speech Lab, and the Writing Center. To increase equity and access to support, the Knowledge Market is adding online assistance to meet the needs of underserved populations at Grand Valley, such as students taking online or hybrid courses, studying abroad, with families or careers, at satellite campuses.

The Knowledge Market is designing virtual support to provide the same benefits as face-to-face services. Rather than providing students with information that is course-specific, peer consultants use a Socratic method of question-asking to let the student direct the meeting. The peer consultants, therefore, are expected to minimize academic anxiety by using empathy and curiosity to validate the student’s needs while also encouraging vulnerability in growth. In the physical spaces, students do not need to know the boundaries of each service, and because consultants collaborate across services, students’ questions are never “wrong” —they are just directed to the most helpful person.

In order to meet students’ needs as seamlessly and efficiently as possible, the virtual project has been broken down into two phases, the first of which launched in October 2019: the Resource Market.

Knowledge Market Students checking in


The Resource Market is a browsable and searchable database of student-centered resources, focusing on interdisciplinary concepts and ideas related to reading, writing, speaking, and researching. The resources are composed with student-audiences in mind and include definitions of academic jargon, narrative explanations of concepts/ideas, and related tools and strategies that will help students accomplish personal academic goals. For example, the Resource Market has a page about annotated bibliographies. In this page, students can read:

  • A definition of annotated bibliography
  • An explanation of why scholars use annotations
  • Brief information about how to craft annotations
  • Links to in-depth guide sheets such as examples of what annotated bibliographies look like with dummy text, information about how to evaluate resources, and more

Support is organized by skill and idea, and all pages are co-created between Knowledge Market administration and the peer consulting staff to maintain a relatable delivery of complex ideas. Additionally, this collection will grow based on student needs, because users are invited to provide questions and ideas within the database. The Knowledge Market is also conducting regular usability tests to ensure the Resource Market meets the needs of students.


Knowledge Market website screenshot

For Students

Since students are the primary audience for all Resource Market pages, the content and tools are created with the following goals in mind:

  • Assist in personal learning from any location and at any time
  • Reinforce prior knowledge, provide new information, and link to other related concepts
  • Provide deeper explanations based on interest and relevancy; invite further exploration

Students can also schedule a meeting with a consultant if inspired to continue a conversation with a person after reading/finding topics of interest or if more questions arise.

For Faculty

We recognize the important role teachers play in the academic lives of students on campus, so we hope the Resource Market can provide the following:

  • Supporting learning in classes or office hours
  • Providing options and tools to offer as co-curricular support
  • Adapting to the needs of campus based on questions and requests submitted via the database

One of the benefits of peer consulting is the approachability of the process, which has been integrated into the personality and presentation of the Resource Market. Learning complex concepts can be difficult, and sometimes impossible, if students are afraid or intimidated. Each concept, therefore, is presented in student terms, which can be scaffolded into the classroom or educational meeting. The Resource Market can be a tool for supportive faculty and staff who work closely with students, and it is now bringing the benefits of peer consulting to your virtual spaces.


The goal of the Virtual Knowledge Market project is to offer the same level of support online that students can expect at our physical locations. The hallmark of peer consulting is the one-on-one consultation, so the next phase of the project is to provide virtual consulting. Designed to adapt to student needs, the Knowledge Market’s synchronous peer support will offer conversations via video, audio, and text with the capabilities to document and screen share. Consultants will use the same Socratic-based approach as face-to-face consultations, and collaborative consultations will be possible across services.

The Knowledge Market is running a virtual consulting pilot during the Winter 2020 semester. During the pilot, students and faculty can provide feedback which will be used to refine the program before the full launch in Fall 2020. The Virtual Knowledge Market can be found on the Knowledge Market website at

Resource Market web ad

Page last modified June 1, 2020