Student support and connection in a time of isolation

Published 16 June 2020
Study Buddi team member Arshdeep Singh Southern Cross University student and Study Buddi team member Arshdeep Singh

Written by the Learning Experience Team, Southern Cross University

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, universities transformed into digital hubs, swiftly moving their programs online.

As a leader in online learning, Southern Cross University was well placed to transfer every course to online delivery in under a week.

The University’s engaged online community already made up the largest of any campus, and now thousands of on-campus students have joined the online cohort to embrace digital learning and prioritise safety until classes begin back on campus.

The higher education sector has been forced to rethink the best ways of continuing to support students effectively during restrictions. As the top University in Australia for International Student Support (ISB 2019) and with a consistent five-star rating in The Good Universities Guide (2020) Southern Cross University has continued to provide a wide range of personal assistance, resources and support to students.

One example is the University’s Study Buddi peer support program, which swapped face-to-face library drop-ins to online delivery via a collaborate link.

The team of 22 student leaders upskilled their technology talents and learned how to use breakout rooms, screen sharing and interactive whiteboards. As the Study Buddi program shifted from geographic campus locations to online delivery, it enabled more team members to extend online service capacity to six hours a day, four days per week. The drop-in collaborate link provided all students with a point of connection in a time of disconnection.

Podiatry and Pedorthics student Sam said Study Buddies were able to offer assistance through their own experience as students and could recognise the anxiety of peers.

“I was able to identify with the students’ needs and they appreciated that I understood their stress levels,” she said.

Study Buddi team member Arshdeep Singh said that helping students had always been one of his interests.

"I was supported by my fellow friends when I first started uni and I feel it's my time to pay it forward. Moving online has increased my ability to help more people out from all campuses around Australia," he said.

Bachelor of Arts team member Ella said many students left the drop-in sessions feeling less overwhelmed and more empowered. While usual drop-in sessions take 15 minutes, Ella had one student drop in for 80 minutes because she really needed to talk to someone.

“I was able to draw on my experience as a student to help break down the assignment into more manageable tasks,” she said.

“The student was having difficulty developing a thesis for an essay. I told her to revisit the topic she found most interesting and to look at the sources referenced and let that inform her thesis rather than the other way around. She seemed overwhelmed by the task and I feel I helped her make it seem a bit less daunting.”

The Study Buddi team reflected on the satisfaction they felt from helping other students, from offering assignment support and advice on external placements, through to pointing them towards online resources or just sharing a student experience, particularly when helping those who were new to studying at University.

Bachelor of Social Welfare team member Janice said her second language background and ability to understand international student perspectives was incredibly useful.

“Study Buddi is like a bridge, connecting students from various shores to reach their destinations. I am very happy and appreciate that I can be one of the bridges, helping students to where they need to be,” she said.

The Study Buddi team will continue providing virtual academic peer support in Session 2 (July – October) to continue boosting connection, confidence and student satisfaction in the learning experience at Southern Cross University.

Media contact: Media team scumedia@scu.edu.au