A difference with style: Providing learning support to students across campuses

Year: 2019

Author: Lal, Shailesh

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The University of the South Pacific (USP) is a regional tertiary institution with 12 member countries. It disseminates learning through 3 modes: face to face, blended and online. Learning support is usually supplemented with academic content to enable students to tackle the requirements of their courses. To ensure that support is accessible to students at all campuses, a student learning support (SLS) facilitator is present at all except 5 campuses. Learning support occurs through one on one interaction between student and learning support staff. Workshops are also conducted on academic skills at the request of academic course coordinators. The normal approach is for learning support staff from the main campus at Laucala to share resources and have their counterparts to conduct the same workshops for students based at the other campuses at their own pre-agreed time.

Recently, a different approach was attempted to support students in a first and second year psychology course. The course coordinator who is based at the Laucala campus invited the SLS personal to conduct a session on Literature review for 2 hours. The session was to be conducted through the REACT tool and this would permit students based at the other campuses to participate in the learning opportunity. This time, the SLS staff were also asked to be present alongside their students at the regional campuses. In this manner, students attending from distant locations had the physical presence of a support staff who mediated information and assisted during activities. There were apparent benefits from this approach. Students at the Laucala campus were able to participate in group activities as well as discuss their responses with the learning support staff and the course coordinator present. Participants at the other campuses did not all have the company of other students thus the presence of their SLS staff enabled opportunities for discussion. They were also provided an opportunity to communicate directly with the course coordinator if they needed specific content related clarifications.

Through this case study, this paper identifies a major challenge presented to students studying from remote distances even though technology is availed. Such students tend to miss out on certain learning opportunities as that described here and it does become the responsibility of education providers to bridge the gaps that exist.