Studying a course online can be extremely rewarding but it can also have its challenges, whether they be academic, transitional or social. It is common for students to feel that they need a little extra guidance and support as they begin their online study journey. Swinburne Online offers a Student Mentor Program, which has had overwhelming success in reducing the feelings of anxiety and worry experienced by new students as well as assisting them with improved motivation, study skills and grades.
What is the Student Mentor Program?
For many students, this may be their first venture into studying a university course, their first time studying online or both. To help ease the transition to online study, the Student Mentor Program pairs successful, experienced students already studying with Swinburne Online with new students or ‘mentees’.
How a student mentor can help you
Mentors are a friendly point of contact for new students and help guide and support them through the initial stages of study by answering questions, sharing valuable study resources, creating social networks, helping navigate the online learning systems and being a sounding board for any issues they are experiencing.
‘My mentor was so helpful in answering every question I had. They went above and beyond to make sure I was comfortable and on the right track… It takes a lot of pressure off – knowing you have a helpful, guiding hand… I highly recommend the program to all new students.’ Matthew – Bachelor of Business with a Major in Marketing.
Building a connection
In addition, student mentors can connect their mentees with other new students in similar courses, therefore assisting them to build further connections with like-minded people using online platforms.
‘I got some excellent tips in my initial phone call and felt comfortable emailing my mentor if I needed advice. I joined the Swinburne Online Mentor/Mentee Facebook page and that has been a wonderful source of contact with other students as well as mentors.’ Rhianon – Bachelor of Education
Keeping your goals in sight and achieving greater success
While studying, there may be times when students find it difficult to work on their assessments or stay motivated. A mentor can help set achievable goals and offer the encouragement and guidance to help their mentees continue on the right track. Not only this, but students who also join the Student Mentor Program show a higher chance of success with completing their assessment tasks and passing their units.
‘My success story with the mentor program is the fact that I wanted to call it quits by about week three and they said, “no, let’s just look at your goals and see how we can tweak them just to keep you going,” so we did. That set me up for success for the remainder of the teaching period. I can’t recommend this program enough, so much so that I’ve decided I am going to apply to be a mentor.’ Claire – Bachelor of Psychological Sciences
Peer support from the start
We caught up with mentee Tanya and her mentor Jacquie, both Bachelor of Media and Communication students, to hear about their experience of the program.
Tanya lives with her partner and two cats, Sapphire and Moonlight, in Victoria. She works in Customer Services for a pet insurance company and enrolled with Swinburne Online to pursue a long-held ambition to be a journalist.
Why did you decide to request a mentor?
I have tried several online courses and never followed through, and I thought a mentor might help me, as I will have the assistance on hand when needed. I interacted with Jacquie via phone calls, messages, emails and social media.
What have you found most helpful about the program?
When I didn’t understand a question on an assignment or a topic within a module, Jacquie has helped me to break it down so that I better understood what was being asked of me. The bonus of the mentor program; I have now gained a friend!
Has the experience been what you expected?
It was so much more than what I expected; the support and encouragement I received from Jacquie was overwhelming and fantastic. If it wasn’t for her, I do not believe I would have completed my third assignment.
Why would you recommend the program?
I would recommend the program as it gives students the confidence that if they are stuck, they have someone to call who will understand what they are saying and explain the answer to their question in basic and simple terms. It is a fantastic service and if it helped me with this course, it will help anyone.
Jacquie lives in Victoria, where she’s worked in the finance and hospitality sectors. When not delivering training or organising an event, she can be found at an AFL game with her son, cheering on the Mighty Hawks. Having been a mentee herself before becoming a mentor, she was keen to help someone else start their study journey.
Why did you get involved in the mentor program?
As a mature-age student who hadn’t studied for a long period of time or online, I was really nervous. Having a mentor gave me somebody who had been through similar experiences and understood how I was feeling-just having someone say you’re on the right track, or if I was off track, gently steering me back in the right direction. This allowed me to feel secure and helped me gain my confidence. I wanted to give back having gained so much from the program.
What are the most frequent challenges mentees encounter?
Time management and establishing work, life and study balance. I always let them know about the Student Coaches and their time management program, and the weekly study planners available through the Student Portal.
What have you learnt from the experience?
I have learnt by listening and being empathetic, you can uncover the problem or difficulty and then really help a fellow student change their thought pattern from, ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘If I break it down into manageable chunks, I’ve got this!’
What has been your biggest challenge as a mentor?
My biggest challenge is when you have a mentee whose situation has changed, be it employment, health or even a relationship breakdown, and studying is no longer the right thing for them. Often they feel like they are failures and it can be really hard to make them realise that it is okay, that when their life returns to normal or they adjust to a new normal, they can give online study another go. The opportunity to learn will still be there, as will the Mentor Program.
What has been your proudest moment as a mentor?
My proudest moment was receiving a call at the end of a mentoring relationship thanking me and telling me they wouldn’t have got through their first subjects without my support. That’s what it’s all about; supporting a fellow student as they embark on their learning journey.