A critical aspect of online learning is the support provided to students by the educator.
Swinburne Online boasts seven-day support through its student liaison officers, commonly known as SLOs, so students who study off-campus never feel isolated or alone while learning via the cyber world.
Seven-day support is uncommon in the tertiary sector, but Swinburne considers it a vital part of its collaborative approach to online learning, ensuring that students feel part of the community.
The SLO team is considered a “one-stop” shop for student inquiries and provides academic, administrative and technical support.
“Many of the students are surprised to find that we are more than an administrative support system,” said SLO Camille Price.
“And many feel a sense of relief when they find out we can help them with numerous issues they may come across.”
SLOs come from a range of backgrounds including IT, teaching and academia, and back their experience with high-level technical and academic training from Swinburne Online.
They provide information on a wide range of topics: report writing, course advice, online collaboration tools, research skills, and IT support related to online learning systems. They also refer students to other support services like career counselling and student advocacy.
“We may get a student that needs help accessing their student email for the first time and then find out they don’t know how to reference in an essay – the support call evolves from there,” Camille said.
SLOs are accessible by phone and email from 9am-9pm on weekdays and 10am-6pm on weekends and public holidays. This level of service is offered because in an online community students study on their own time, which is often out of normal working hours.
“Our students work full time or have family and other commitments that can make it difficult to access support between nine and five. This is why we offer off-hour contact, so students have that extra time to get in touch,” Camille said.
She said the team worked “step by step” and offered a “personalised” experience for students so they can feel comfortable calling for anything. And repeat calls are all part of the journey and build important support relationships.
“There’s nothing better than hearing a student say, ‘I feel better now’,” Camille said. “Our students are amazing. Most of them are studying while working full time or have a family to look after and we just want to make their experience as enriching as possible.”
* This article is written by an independent journalist as part of a commercial agreement between Fairfax Media and Swinburne Online.