Studying is very rarely a smooth ride from start to finish. We all need someone who can reach out when we’re feeling uninspired, remind us of a looming deadline, or offer a bit of advice on how to overcome a challenge.
But how do you get support when you’re a postgrad student who’s studying online? You might be busy trying to balance work, family and study – and sometimes life just throws a curveball that threatens to impact your studies.
Meet Sarah Arakelian. She’s been a Student Success Adviser (SSA) for some years and now oversees the student success team. Sarah says:
It’s a role that's a bit like being an extra pair of eyes and ears.
SSAs can help you develop a study plan, remind you about when your fees are due, or just give you a call to see how you’re going with an upcoming testimony.
But the role is also a two-way street: students receive support and in return Deakin gets feedback on students’ experiences, which can influence course design and improvements.
Sarah says most students have done plenty of study before, but they may not have done it in an online environment while juggling family and work.
“Some [students] assume it’s going to be the same, so we try and help them understand that there’s a difference between this mode of study and what they may have done before.”
It’s about helping manage expectations and providing the tools and knowledge that prepares them for studying a postgraduate course online, she says.
One of the things Sarah finds most satisfying is helping people overcome challenges that run the risk of derailing their studies.
“You’re a real part of someone’s journey when you know that you’ve assisted them through a difficult situation,” she says.
How can a Student Success Adviser help you?
Of course, every student comes to their studies with different experiences and has different needs.
“I had a brand-new student who was in her sixties. She wasn’t tech savvy and was incredibly overwhelmed about being in an online course.”
Sarah collaborated with her on a study plan and helped her take some simple, but necessary steps for becoming a successful online postgrad student. Then she scheduled weekly catch-up calls to monitor how she was going.
“Those calls were making her more accountable for actioning the things she needed to do because she knew she would have to talk to me about it,” says Sarah.
By the end of her first unit, a positive tone had entered the student’s voice and she felt empowered to throw herself into the next part of the course.
While some students need hands-on support, others are fairly self-sufficient – although Sarah’s noticed that everyone needs a helping hand once in a while. She says sometimes it’s simply a case of reaching out and giving them a bit of encouragement when the chips are down.
“Sometimes that’s all it takes.”