Transitioning to remote learning in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation has been a big adjustment for many students. For some, the transition has presented even greater challenges due to language and cultural barriers. Students in Swinburne’s Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) and Skills for Education and Employment Program (SEE), have benefited greatly from the increased support from the Student Success Coach program during this time.
The Student Success Coach program is a free support service available to all vocational education (PAVE) and VCAL/VCE students and apprentices. Currently, twelve coaches across Swinburne’s three Melbourne campuses are available to help students navigate the competing pressures of life and online learning. For the Migrant English cohorts, student success coaches are former AMEP students themselves and are able to share their own personal experiences and knowledge with current students.
While the COVID-19 situation has resulted in additional barriers for some students, Student Success Coaches are dedicated to ensuring that no one misses out on the opportunity for education, regardless of their background.
Bilingual coaches are currently helping english language students adapt to the new experience of remote learning by personally contacting each student weekly to offer vital support. Coaches have been assisting students with their remote learning by running online tutorials, translating important updates and information from teachers, and directing students to critical health information and government services and supports via Zoom.
Connection is key
Student Success Coaches like Sherry Jiang and James Thangman are described by Katerina Rojas, Campus Convenor Croydon (Migrant English Program) as ‘digital angels‘ for the way they have provided tailored support to migrant and refugee students who are now studying online.
“Coaches operate as conjugate between students and teachers, checking in with students’ weekly to explain assignments and tasks and offer academic and personal support. As a teacher, I would not have been able to establish such a great connection with my students without the support of the bilingual coaches,” says Mrs Rojas.
English language studies are critical for many migrant and refugee students, allowing them to access a broader range of employment opportunities, further training, and engagement with the wider community.
“James and I have connected with every student over the past few weeks simply to remind them they are not alone and offer whatever support we can to make sure they are able to continue their studies remotely,” says Ms Jiang.
With this increased support system, in only a matter of weeks, students who were apprehensive about continuing their online studies are now looking forward to Term 2.
“Around 400 students from migrant and refugee backgrounds across all Melbourne campuses indicated they would not be re-enrolling for Term 2 when offered. However, due to this extra support, nearly half of those students changed their decision and are now continuing their studies,” says Mrs Rojas.
Student Success Coach Sherry Jiang reflects that her work through COVID-19 has been especially rewarding.
"We are seeing students who wanted to give up instead persevere and have a great experience. That is what matters most," says Ms Jiang.
All PAVE and VCAL/VCE students who require additional learning supports are encouraged to reach out to Student Success Coaches online.