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Managing a remote workforce

From the beaches of Sri Lanka to Greece and all over Australia, Swinburne Online eLearning Advisors (eLAs) work from different parts of the world. Their role is based solely online, which has forged new and innovative ways to managing a remote workforce.

‘Swinburne Online has invested in our satellite workforce, focussing on supporting and developing our expansive teaching team,’ says Luke Serong, eLA and Online Teaching Coach.

‘As an Online Teaching Coach I am part of this support and development. I have regular contact with our eLAs, offer tips and hints for better performance and focus heavily on assisting the eLAs to work more efficiently and effectively rather than harder.’

The 140 eLAs that make up the teaching team at Swinburne Online are connected through email, the private social networking site Yammer and online learning system, Blackboard.

Through these platforms, eLAs can converse in likeminded environment discussing academic content delivery, new methods for collaborating with students and receive general support and feedback on the units they instruct.

‘On top of Yammer, eLAs also have unit specific online lounges where ideas and resources are shared and discussed, questions are raised and morale is supported.

‘We try and give positive, constructive feedback at every opportunity, while openly helping  eLAs who may be struggling to meet standards with clear conversations around areas that need improving,’ says Mr Serong.

Selected based on industry experience and qualifications, eLAs are the first port of call for online students. Each undergoes an intensive four week training course before facilitating online study to students.

‘The role is vital to the student experience, so we also recruit potential eLAs based on whether they are passionate, student centred, able to communicate effectively online and have some online experience,’ says Mr Serong.

A typical day for an eLA may include working full time in industry or supporting a family.  On top of this, they devote 4 hours each week to the unit they teach, which is spread out in order to provide a consistent presence for students.

‘Our eLAs are trained to respond quickly to student emails and questions on the Blackboard. The majority of their work is done weaving the key concepts raised by students into a consolidated post that demonstrates the learning generated by the participating students.

‘The eLA will also add expert knowledge to the conversation that may not have been raised by the students, or ask furthering questions to instigate further discussion,’ says Mr Serong.

A part from the initial training, eLAs are invited to meet once a year at the Swinburne Online head office for a vision night to meet and discuss new and emerging concepts in online teaching. Other than that, eLAs are a unique remote workforce connected online, much like their students.