Close to a third of Swinburne Online’s student population are actively using discipline focused Facebook groups to gain more support and share ideas in what has been dubbed an online ‘campus coffee shop’.
The four main Facebook groups dedicated to students studying Business, Communication, Education and Social Science and are moderated by Swinburne Online Student Liaison Officers (SLOs).
“The main goal of an SLO is to support students throughout their studies. This can range from solving technical and administration queries to offering moral support to students that may be struggling.”
“With each Facebook Group, we have employed a high touch approach to stay informed on any issues that may arise, make important announcements and reinforce that students are part of a community,” says Rebecca Nieuwenhof, SLO.
The SLOs operate under the Facebook profile ‘Students Liaison Officers’, allowing access to post in the groups and communicate with students online. SLOs are available by phone and email 7 days a week, however, Ms Nieuwenhof says Facebook is a great vehicle for getting larger messages to students.
“We mainly post if there is incorrect information being shared or important dates are coming up. But it has become a great way to be proactive in our support efforts.
“If we notice a problem is trending, we work to find the solution and then can communicate to students in a big way to eliminate too many calls and emails on the same issue. But not all students are on there so it helps to prepare for the students that get in touch directly.”
Bachelor of Education student, Helen Edwards is a frequent contributor to the Education group and says it has elevated her experience as a student.
“The Swinburne Online Facebook group has really helped with my study. It is relieving to know others out there doing the same as you, juggling work or family commitments. It is a fantastic way to hear study tips, brainstorm ideas and support each other’s ups and downs,” Helen says.
The groups are closed and can only be accessed after a student requests to join after which their names are verified with enrolment. This system ensures the community is available solely for students studying with Swinburne Online.
Although SLOs contribute to discussions, the foundation of the Facebook group is to promote student interactions outside of the online classroom, and so only communicate on a needs basis.
“If a student asks a question on Facebook and another student answers correctly, then there isn’t a need to get in on that conversation. We have many student advocates in the groups that are great at pointing others in the right direction, so we just let that flow,” says Ms Nieuwenhof.
“We are there to make students feel secure in their online community and show that it’s a place they can connect and unwind. We help when we can but for the most part, the Facebook group is led by our students.”