Swinburne Online has nearly doubled its online teaching team adding 65 new eLearning Advisors (eLAs) to keep up with growing student numbers.
‘We are hiring additional eLAs due to increasing student demand and for the roll out of our later stage units across our degrees,’ says Sue Kokonis, Director of Teaching, Swinburne Online.
In its last teaching period, Swinburne Online exceeded expectations by enrolling over 4,000 students after only a year in operation. This result suggests online courses are meeting student demand, and Swinburne Online is supporting that growth by providing more high quality online student support.
eLAs are a critical part of the online learning environment facilitating academic content and group collaboration through the learning management system, Blackboard.
‘eLAs encourage student collaboration by acknowledging student queries, asking further questions and clarifying content – the emphasis is on encouraging many to many communication,’ says Ms Kokonis.
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 crucial to the student experience, so, as well as the relevant qualifications and experience in their field, we recruit potential eLAs based on whether they are passionate, student centred, able to communicate effectively online and have some online experience,’ says Ms Kokonis.
A typical eLA will have four hours of contact per week, dependent on the amount of groups they facilitate. Each group has up to 32 students and eLAs are allocated to their unit based on qualifications and industry experience.
‘Many of our eLAs are actually working in the industry and are like our students in that they work full time or have family commitments, so they tutor in their own time.
‘This is important as not only do students receive practical insight in relation to theory but eLAs also work in a similar manner as our students in an online environment, which is integral in gaining a deeper understanding of the needs of our student population,’ says Ms Kokonis.
eLAs provide academic support, assessment feedback and are a consistent presence for students from week to week online. They are also bolstered by the wider Swinburne Online community in that they can redirect students to other avenues of support if they so need.
The new group of eLAs will begin later this year and continue to work closely with students fostering online communities.