ANZSSA e-newsletter - June/July 2020

In this Edition

Reducing Barriers to Student Participation and Achievement  

Peer Mentoring and Student Leadership Programmes 

For Your Information

Professional Development Opportunities

ANZSSA Professional Focus Groups


AccessAbility at University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) 

Colleagues across the sector will be aware that the move to online studies in Semester 1, 2020 has not been a simple move for all students. To accommodate the new measures undertaken in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) moved all study to an online format in week 5 of the semester. This was a considerable undertaking for staff as USC predominantly offered on campus, face to face teaching delivery.  Reformatting content delivery while ensuring the same high levels of engagement and student support were some of the initial challenges faced by academic and professional staff.  

AccessAbility Services partnered with colleagues from Student Retention and Success, Web Accessibility and the Centre for Support and Advancement of Learning and Teaching (CSALT) in developing a resource to assist teaching staff in transitioning face to face course content to accessible online material. The aim of this project was to help reduce barriers for students at the design phase by working collaboratively, across boundaries with an academic audience in mind. We felt that a strong emphasis on universal design for learning principles was key to effective practices and outcomes in this transition to online teaching and learning.

The content was delivered using Microsoft Sway. It encapsulated existing and newly developed resources and was made available for teaching staff on USC’s intranet. Content was organised around the following strategies:

  • Design the learning for everyone
  • Provide flexibility
  • Stay safe when communicating online
  • Write with your students in mind
  • Be intentional around wellbeing

As an additional strategy, and in recognition of the work that professional staff do at USC in engaging and supporting students online, the emphasis on universal design was incorporated into professional development for Student Services and Engagement staff. In a series of workshops for professional staff who were shifting services and resources online, inclusive learning strategies were outlined and discussed using the same Sway resource to reinforce key strategies. The staff participants included those designing Orientation, staff who provide learning advice, student success coaches, careers and employability staff and a range of other professional experts. Feedback from this session demonstrated increased staff knowledge in engagement theory, designing and delivering online and included specific requests for more information and examples around inclusive design.

AccessAbility Services – Reducing Barriers Every Day

(Brad Lines, Ability Adviser & Jane Anderson, Manager AccessAbility Services)

AccessAbility Services took a comprehensive approach this semester to support students identified with high and complex needs. This has involved regular check-ins to ensure their transition to online learning was successful, and to provide feedback to and liaise with teaching staff on any unexpected challenges students faced in successfully engaging in technology-enabled blended learning. Additionally, Semester 1 2020 saw a 31% increase in student appointments when compared with Semester 1 2019, which resulted in a 10% increase in Learning Access Plans. Student feedback outlined feelings of support by students during this increase in service demand via email, phone, and videoconferencing technology.

The transition to online study increased barriers for students with hearing or communication issues. Some students faced unexpected barriers, such as increased communication difficulties during tutorials. The collaborative nature of online tutorials resulted in multiple students speaking at once, and this, coupled with additional background noise and difficulty locating the speaker, impacts on students’ ability to process key information. For students who relied on lip reading strategies to assist in receiving verbal information in a classroom setting, captioning, transcripts, and AUSLAN became necessary adjustments.

Some students required the ongoing practical assistance of a Participation Assistant to continue their studies online. AccessAbility Services provided this support to multiple students, which doubled as an opportunity to provide ongoing employment for students working as Participation Assistants via effective work from home measures. 

Through these initiatives AccessAbility Services anticipate further opportunities to continue reducing barriers for students in Semester 2, 2020.

Disclosing pre-existing conditions prior to Work Integrated Learning placements

(Dr Jayson Tatnell, Advanced Practitioner, AccessAbility Services)

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) aims to improve employability by allowing students to demonstrate key skills in context and building connections with potential employers. Over the past two years, USC has developed and refined the Placement Disclosure Statement - an online form which all students must complete prior to WIL placement, indicating whether they have a pre-existing condition or other factors that could impact their ability to complete placement or may put themselves or others at risk.

USC requests students disclose information regarding pre-existing conditions and other factors to provide the best possible placement experience and ensure safety for students and the people they will be working with. Health- or disability-related disclosures are triaged by AccessAbility Services, with other factors assessed by Student Wellbeing, and students are contacted for clarifying information, if necessary. Through this process, reasonable adjustments can be identified and recommended for the placement coordinator/team and/or the placement host to put in place.

Students whose condition puts them at higher risk in terms of their or others' safety are advised to provide a medical and/or psychological assessment to certify that they are safe to undertake placement.

Students are provided with a Fact Sheet detailing why the information is being requested and which details are required and they are encouraged to contact AccessAbility Services to confidentially discuss their situation prior to completing the Placement Disclosure Statement. USC appointed an advanced practitioner ability adviser within AccessAbility Services to lead the development and implementation of processes for disclosure of student health/disability issues in August 2019. We see this newly developed role as a key initiative that reduces barriers to essential WIL experiences.

Semester 1, 2020 marked the first time that all disciplines across the university adopted these procedures. Despite a number of placement courses being disrupted or postponed due to COVID-19, 3357 students  completed a Placement Disclosure Statement, of which 228 disclosed a health condition or other factor.

Colleagues interested in learning more about the role, processes and outcomes are welcome to contact Jayson at


The Bubble - Peer Leadership programme

Jude West, Senior Advisor Student Wellbeing, Student Academic Services, Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington

The Bubble is a wellbeing programme for students. It was developed out of staff and student focus groups, as an activity linked to the student wellbeing campaign. We employ eight students as Bubble Leaders, train them in peer listening, referral skills, developing co-designed projects and evaluation. They curate and host a wellbeing space on campus where students drop in, take a break from their studies, chat to our Bubble Leaders over a hot drink, board game or creative activity. When necessary, the Bubble Leaders refer students to Student Services, walk them to appointments, and follow up to see how they’re doing.

Every year we run a monitoring survey with students who use The Bubble programme. To date, our results show us that The Bubble helps students feel connected with, supported by and positive about university through hospitality and hosting connections in a designated space with activities and opportunities that enable students to ask for help without feeling pressured.

The COVID-19 lockdown prompted us to provide a virtual drop in space for students that continued to enable connectedness and help seeking. Here’s the unfolding story of how we designed and ran the Our Bubble project and why it didn’t work.

Designing the programme

We chose to use Zoom as a platform to host sessions. To avoid Zoom security issues, we opted to use a preliminary registration step, to check that registrants were enrolled students.

We went through a co-design process with Bubble Leaders, arriving at the name ‘Our Bubble’ and ideas for Zoom hosting. We implemented a communications plan that promoted Our Bubble across a range of recommended channels that students use.

Each Bubble Leader developed their own facilitation style and activities to host connections and conversations. This included screen sharing online activities, developing wellbeing-themed conversation starters, and doing live crafts.

We ran a demo session, at which the Bubble Leaders invited friends to give feedback about their facilitation style and test out the functionality of Zoom.

Learning through group supervision

During weekly supervision we noticed that The Bubble Leaders worked incredibly hard at being agile, not only with the transition to a virtual programme while in lockdown, but also their personal lives. We supported them as they made decisions about where to live (home or flat) and as they persevered with how to manage self-directed online study.

We learned about how exhausting it is to prepare and host Zoom sessions. We supervised our way through managing participants, Zoom ettiquette, experiencing awkard silences as failure, expectations and pressure about being good hosts and disappointment with low uptake.

Monitoring feedback

We ran two monitoring surveys. One with our participants and one with Bubble Leaders. What we found out was interesting, but we didn’t have sufficient data to draw firm conclusions.

The Bubble Leaders were asked to report on feedback from participants about their experience of Our Bubble. Participants liked structured activities that enabled game play, conversations, taking a break from study, provided support and entertainment.

“Participants love to have general conversations ... hang out and chat with somone other than in their bubble”.

“Enjoyed being able to see other people while lock[ed] down and using the bubble space as a break from study. Feedback is positive”.

“They really seem to enjoy a bit of structure through games or other activities”.

When Bubble Leaders were asked about their thoughts about how we could increase student engagement that were stumped. They reported that we had tried everything, but hinted that Zoom can be uncomfortable for students and the virtual space is different to dropping in to a physical space.

“It is quite difficult to say because zoom meetings can be quite uncomfortable for most students.”

We asked our participants a series of questions. They discovered us through multiple channels. On the whole the advertising was clear, they received the Zoom link with clear instructions about how to join. The time window worked and Zoom was accessible.

Reasons why participants didn’t join, even though they had registered, included feeling awkard, social anxiety, not having a personal connection with student wellbeing leaders, being busy with work or study and having difficulty with internet or wifi connections.

A few of our participants had recommended a friend to join because their friend was finding it hard to make friends at university.

“I personally didn’t know about this until a class friend mentioned it to me but once I joined in I really found it helpful and awesome to have a chat.”

Participants rated the Bubble Leaders as excellent and good. They liked tips about student life, being able to hang out, talk freely and meet new people. They reported their experience as inclusive. They didn’t have any suggestions for improvement other than a timetable of when Bubble Leaders were on duty, that we did try but had no effect.

“I liked the tips that were given to me and the fact that we can just talk to students and meet new people was great.”

“The bubble was a helpful space where I could just come and hang out.”

Failing successfully

Failing successfuly meant working through a shut down process of Our Bubble with the Bubble Leaders and participants. While Our Bubble engaged a small number of students, who reported high quality engagement with the Bubble Leaders, registrations against actual turnout was 17%. We decided we couldn’t justify the resourcing cost against the outputs.

Providing the Bubble Leaders an opportunity to reflect on what they learned throughout the process in supervision was useful. They reported skill development in facilitation, planning, preparing and hosting. It also provided soft skills including self-confidence, directing participants as well as requesting and responding to feedback.

In summary, when we compare Our Bubble to Storycraft, a peer support that did successfuly transition online, the common factor is the personal relationship between the facilitators and the participants. This gives us information to adjust The Bubble training, ready to resume face to face services and if needed, return to an online format in a stronger position.

Self-Awareness and Wellbeing Program at USC for HDR Students

Ms Sharon Andersen and Ms Alis Anagnostakis (HDR Student)


HDR candidates expressed a need for greater wellbeing support, as well as more opportunities for social connection to assist manage isolation and the inherent challenges of the HDR journey. In response to this, Student Wellbeing codesigned a peer-led initiative to deliver a series of psychoeducation workshops to students.

At USC, Student Wellbeing facilitate several peer lead initiatives. In addition to an LGBTIQA+ and International peer  led programs, PhD student Alis Anagnostakis, was recruited to run a 12 week “Self- Awareness and Wellbeing Program” for HDR students. The program’s core goal was to support HDR students to go beyond developing the technical skills they need, to navigate their research degree and develop their emotional and interpersonal skills.

The HDR peer leader was funded through Student Services and Amenities fees (SSAF) for 4 hours a week, between orientation and end of semester 2. The peer leader was provided with a role statement, induction and overview of Student Wellbeing, professional development and regular supervision throughout the program.


It is commonly known that the Higher Degree by Research (HDR) student population experiences unique challenges that can often result in poorer mental health outcomes for those students compared to their undergraduate peers.

Challenges reported by HDR students at USC, and no doubt shared by HDR students throughout the country are: isolation, challenges in maintaining motivation over time and lack of adequate coaching, responsiveness and support from supervisors, which might leave students feeling confused and unable to independently set the course for themselves. For many HDRs, their main contact with the university is their supervisor – so their wellbeing can be impacted by their supervisor’s emotional intelligence, capacity to mentor and offer constructive feedback and engagement.

Many mature age HDR students also face challenges around maintaining careers and livelihoods, caring for children and keeping adequate work-life balance. In addition, HDR students who are also teaching have reported challenges around balancing teaching workloads and research, as well as a need to develop themselves as mentors to the students they are teaching, so they can effectively support them in turn. In response to these barriers and challenges, a dedicated HDR Wellbeing support role was identified, and a student peer leader established to provide specific support to HDR students.

The Program

Using a structured approach, informed by positive and developmental psychology and neuroscience, the program ran 12 sessions in a series of 2-hour workshops, every 2 – 3 weeks. Initially the workshops were a combination of face to face and Zoom sessions, however, following COVID19 restrictions, all sessions were facilitated via Zoom, along with a Facebook group to encourage ongoing discussion between sessions.

The program included practical tools and resources for self-discovery and self-management on topics such as “emotional management”, “wellbeing and resilience”, “motivation”, “personal values and purpose”, “identifying and using strengths”, “maintaining self- esteem and persisting through adversity” or “coaching”. The format for delivery was a semi structured group, where HDR students could apply these tools to their ongoing challenges and identify practical solutions to help them not only cope but thrive in their research journey. Despite the sessions being offered online only; attendance was steady with an average of 15-20 students in attendance at each session.

Sample Weeks 1-3 content


The focus of peer support created psychological safety in the group attending these sessions. Participants were open and freely shared their challenges and thoughts with high levels of engagement. Most students contributed to the Facebook group. Participants reported the content to be highly relevant to them and have rated the experience as extremely useful.

“It has so far been an incredible journey of finding self and starting to talk to self. This has been enabled by Alis in such a wonderful and safe way. Everything works so well, the intro to topics as well as the guided practices.” Workshop participant 2020

“This program hit the nail right on the head in terms of what I needed. High quality content, skilled and supportive facilitator, safe space to share and support each other, connection, the mental skills needed to sustain a hdr journey”. Workshop participant 2020


Based on the feedback from participants formally and informally, growth opportunities for this program include offering a blended approach of both face to face and virtual, along with having more session with a shorter duration.
It has been suggested by participants that the program might become an intrinsic feature of all HDR journeys, as a means of preparing upcoming HDRs to better manage themselves during their research years and to build identify in the HDR student cohort.

The program could be expanded – with a heavier focus on coaching – and offered to supervisors, supporting them to develop their self-awareness and gaining new tools for understanding and mentoring their HDR students. Additionally, it has highlighted the importance of the systemic need for better support for both HDRs and supervisors in building trusting, effective mentoring relationships.

Summary from Alis

Alis’ exceptional facilitation skills in delivering this program has provided a great opportunity for HDR students from all schools to come together and learn skills, create connections and share the commonalities of the HDR experience – a shared humanity and the many ways in which we can maximise our internal resources, as well as build meaningful interactions, despite undertaking research in very different disciplines and spaces. It has also provided a welcome platform to gain support from peers who are going through the same journey and normalise some of the challenges most HDRs are facing and might believe are unique to them.

QUT Research Student Network - Sustainable HDR Student Participation

By Dr Heena Akbar, Christine Wang, Jun Seok Song and Graeme Baguley

Research students are ‘so single focused on a single topic,’ so QRSnet provides an outlet to de-stress, unwind, be creative or express creatively outside their research space. It allows them to connect with other research students which is a QRSnet aim - to foster and nurture relationships within QUT’.

A dilemma for most research institutions has been to provide a vehicle to reduce isolation and build connections for their scholars, particularly those from overseas. The journey of a postgraduate research degree student can be a lonely one that requires immediate focus and compliance with timelines to meet university schedules.

While most universities have onboarded the concept of the ‘student experience’ for their undergraduate cohorts with leadership development, peer mentoring, sports and recreation options and student lead activities, higher degree research students often have been left to their own devices or to fit into these programs which are often unsuitable or require time and commitment that they are unable to give.

As social workers with community development tools, our normal response would be to gather together those students and assist them to set up a self-help group with the eventual aim being a sustainable HDR student association. This was a successful strategy with many of the voluntary national associations, special interest groups and sports clubs established in the 1980’s which, despite occasional ups and downs, are still operating and serving their members today.

Previous attempts at QUT to establish and maintain a Research Students Association have faltered within a couple years. While well-meaning individual students have worked tirelessly to set up a support group, it has been unsustainable with the issue of being time poor and needing to meet deadlines in their own research having to take precedence.

After a meeting of approximately 100 research students in 2009 where a needs assessment and brainstorming session was conducted, International Student Services lead an initiative to set up and support a Postgraduate Research Student Network (PGRSnet). From this event, several recommendations were adopted with the main aim being to provide opportunities and support to research students through their academic research journey and personal life while studying at QUT. While the QUT Research Centre and Faculty research offices were seen to meet the academic and research skills training needs, the students were seeking other support that implied a need to develop new options.

Between 2009 – 2011, PGRSnet provided a diverse range of workshops from support groups, facilitated workshops and a talk series including well-being, cross-cultural activities, stress management, careers and language support. Academic, research and professional support service staff took up the challenge, contributing their time and expertise to ensure the sustainability of the program. 50 workshops and a number of ‘social events’ were offered each year to support research students.

In 2012 the university provided funding for the QUT Research Students Network (QRSnet) which included a coordinating role and some non-salary expenses. QRSnet was established to build and promote self-confidence in research and personal skills while providing a supportive safe learning environment that enhances a positive student experience and fosters student success. Students are encouraged to meet, interact, network and engage with student life and research activities. The target group included higher degree research students, Masters by coursework students undertaking a research component and honours students undertaking research.

QRSnet aims to build networks between students and staff across QUT; encourage study, social and personal life balance; foster personal and life skills development; nurture creative capabilities; link international and domestic students within a collegial environment to encourage learning and promote student wellbeing, resilience and self-care.

In 2019, 118 workshops were conducted by staff and research students from across the university with total attendance of 1,849. Satisfaction rates were high, averaging  98%, with 90% indicating they could use what they have learnt in the workshop and an increase in pre and post workshop knowledge from 19% to 95%. Initiatives in 2018/19 included more options for informal interaction such as weekly afternoon Coffee Breaks on each campus and a Board Games Café’. Each of these activities facilitated by HDR students attracted a regular attendance of 12-15 students. Following feedback from students, a forum focussing on networking and exploring career options outside of academia was organised in October 2019   where QUT HDR Alumni members shared their stories and tips with a group of 60 research students.  This forum also provided an opportunity to gain feedback on QRSnet activities.

QRSnet workshops and activities have been aligned with QUT Blueprint 6 and streamed into Support and Wellness, Networking and Connectedness and  Scholarly Perspectives and Experience.

Impact of COVID-19

Feedback from HDR student surveys had indicated that QRSnet workshops and activities need to be more inclusive for part-time and external students. The restrictions for on-campus activities posed by COVID-19 created the impetus to explore online options for the full range of activities advertised. Facilitators, with the assistance of the QRSnet team, were quick to respond with recorded talks on stress management; zooming workshops for painting, cooking, indoor plants do-it-yourself, other creative and wellness interests and academic and scholar perceptions on the research milestones. Alumni members and current HDR students came forward to offer workshops on new topics with attendance at several workshops seeing increased numbers.

‘Coffee Breaks’ switched to weekly zoom events with topics and activities like sharing cultural stories, recommendations for and listening to world music and discussions on successful  research methods. Board Games Café quickly moved to online platforms like ‘Discord’ with students facilitating group board games at the scheduled weekly time and 24/7 when people met at times that suited. Numbers in this group trebled in the first two weeks.

During second semester 2019, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International) sponsored a review of QRSnet with a report presented to him in April this year as the Covid-19 took hold in Australia. The review commended the QRSnet team for the progress towards meeting the project  aims. In particular, the evidence of high participation rates by domestic and international students in all aspects of QRSnet was acknowledged.

Emeritus Professor Actram Taji AM, QUT Staff Alumni Workshop on Academic Perspective - Critical Literature Reviews

Peter Coughran, Social Work Intern, ISS  Zoom workshop - Indoor Plants DIY

Board Games Cafe' weekly session

Painting workshop 


Live Chat Defines Success in Online Peer Support at UNSW

Lakia Turner, Peer Support Coordinator, Isabelle Vertucci, Equity Program Coordinator and Jessica Luquin, Team Lead – Peer Support, Student Experience Team, Student Life and Communities, UNSW

2020 is presenting unprecedented challenges for engaging student experiences. Peer Support is exploring innovative ways to embed inclusive practice, and learnings from running a popular Live Chat service, in the development of peer support programs to enhance students’ sense of belonging at UNSW.

About Live Chat

Delivering online peer support, through Live Chat, provided rich experience and understanding of what makes this modality successful. The experience and learnings from delivering inclusive online support encourages innovation to meet the current challenges, presented by COVID-19, with new online peer support programs. Peer Support are engaging in an exciting process of pilot testing, review and refinement to make sure the students are at the centre of every program delivered.

Peer Support at UNSW sits within the Student Experience + Support Team, which is a central, student focused team within the Student Life and Communities unit, under the DVC(Academic) division. Peer Support delivers first year student support initiatives and provides a consistent foundation for the delivery of more than thirty Faculty, Division and Student Society peer support programs across UNSW.

The Live Chat service, which has been running since 2017, provides online peer support in the form of live chats with senior students. In 2020, Live Chat trained thirty mentors who have engaged in more than 600 individual chats, with the service reaching more than 5,000 new students. In the Live Chat feedback survey, 80% of students who used the service rated it 5 stars and found the following elements most helpful; the mentors providing relevant information; providing information they were unable to find elsewhere; and feeling better connected to the UNSW community. The majority of respondents said the Live Chat is their preferred way to communicate with the University and would use the service again in the future. The Live Chat service’s effective delivery, and evident impact supporting new students at UNSW, provides an in-depth understanding of what students need from an online support offering. The key elements that make the Live Chat a success are:

  • That it provides personal, accurate and timely advice and support from peers,
  • It uses inclusive principles to empower students to overcome barriers to help-seeking by,
    • Being completely online, with mentors and mentees accessing from home or remotely from any device,
    • Being non-confrontational, supporting those with psychosocial disabilities, mental health conditions or students with English as a second language who may feel barriers in accessing information over the phone, in-person or with staff,
    • Running outside of normal office hours, engaging students at a time they are able and willing to connect, including international students in different time zones.

These elements make Live Chat an important peer support offering, but they are not elements that are restricted to a live chat program. COVID-19’s required isolation and working from home forced UNSW Divisions, Faculties and Student Societies to assess their connection to the student cohort, specifically those commencing their studies completely online in Term 2.

Embedding Inclusive Practice and Live Chat Learnings

Traditionally, students who study online face difficulties connecting to their peers due to the lack of in-person social interaction and opportunities to meet face to face. In Term 2 at UNSW many international students commenced their studies online while still living in their home country. The online study format, coupled with isolation fears, has led to more engagement from international students reaching out for support on Live Chat. This increase in help-seeking through online peer support identified a need for international students living overseas to connect to their peers online.

The response was to develop a peer support program, in collaboration with Peer Support, the International Student Engagement Team and the Chinese Students Association (CSA), which commenced in Week 2 of Term 2.  Peer Support provided consultation and guidance about embedding inclusive practice and applying learnings from Live Chat to ensure a best practice approach was adopted when developing the program. The consultation and advice focused on mentoring session content, assisting with the use of technology, providing core skills training to the mentors and advertising the program on the Peer Support central website.

The CSA program is completely online and consists of group based mentoring sessions via Zoom on Friday evenings. This structure allows CSA to provide personal support online, in a format that is non-confrontational and outside of office hours which broadens access and integrates the key elements from Live Chat that make online support a success. More than 70% of the 100+ CSA mentees are located offshore, therefore online support is the most inclusive format that could effectively create a sense of community and belonging for these students. Although the pilot program is still running, so yet to be evaluated, Jun the Vice President of CSA says he is looking forward to continuing to work with the Peer Support team to “help us better serve the UNSW Chinese student community”.

In 2020, Peer Support trained 770 mentors, 55% from Student Societies. The Central Peer Support Training provides an essential foundation of core mentoring skills and knowledge, and the key challenge for mentors has been to provide this same support online in the face of a global health crisis. Converting the training online enabled the team to prepare more than 70 mentors to provide online peer support in Term 2.

Difficult times lead to opportunities to innovate and explore what is possible outside of the norm. Online peer support programs have increased access and made it easier for many students to connect to peers, from wherever they are in the world, relieving at least one obstacle they face. Learning from the successes of online peer support, through the Live Chat service, new programs can connect more new students to mentors, delivering important, engaging, fun and rewarding guidance and support to more students than ever before.

Screenshot of a Zoom meeting with 9 university students, smiling and holding handwritten signs saying “Peer Support is...” with a word they’ve used to describe what peer support means to them, “love, connection, important, fun, understanding, pleasing, engagement, rewarding and guidance.”

Re-imagining support services when residential schools are moved online

By Julie Sack, Academic Skills Coordinator (Faculty of Arts and Education), Charles Sturt University.

With more than half of our students studying online, Charles Sturt University is well versed in online learning and teaching. However some courses use periodic residential schools to supplement online course delivery and COVID-19 forced some rethinking of this traditional model.  As the entire country went into isolation in April 2020, Charles Sturt University was faced with the choice of delaying an important residential school for 184 students studying Social Work, or looking for alternate ways to provide the experience to students.

A valuable component of residential school attendance is being able to connect with university support services, and normalise access to these services. Many students do not ask for assistance with writing or literacy, especially in their first year. We think it is important to foster positive relationships with the university, their subjects and their learning in the first year for increased student success and retention. To replace the Academic Skills and Library information sessions which would normally take place in lecture theatres, tutorial rooms and at social events during their residential school, we put together a suite of online materials to ensure students had the opportunity to learn about the range of individually tailored and embedded support available. The relevance of each resource for the online residential school was carefully considered. Course design at Charles Sturt University looks closely at academic literacy and learning skills across the entirety of the course, and strategically embeds support and scaffolding for students at their point of need.

The University embraces an embedded and integrated approach to literacy and language support and a collaborative approach between literacy and language professionals and discipline experts. Alongside discipline teams, the Academic Skills team work within subjects to support reading, writing and language at a level appropriate to the subject and course requirements, aiming for a professional level of literacy by the end of their course. For example, the first time students encounter an essay in their course, we provide a contextualised embedded workshop about essay writing after initial attention in teaching, learning, and assessment experiences to the underlying skills of paragraph structure, synthesis of evidence into writing and the fundamentals of referencing. All of the strategies take into account the diversity of skills students have on entry, and the many pathways which bring them to their course. The residential school experience was intentionally designed to complement and reinforce the existing embedded support, as well as enhance students’ ongoing experience with accessing student services.

A key consideration for this online residential school support was the need to minimise the large blocks of time students need to spend passively engaged with online presentations. Learners tend to prefer actively engaging with learning materials in the online environment. Rather than a two hour presentation, we provided students with a series of short instructional videos, downloadable tools such as weekly planners, resources related to upcoming tasks and interactive activities created using h5p. These were sequenced logically, but were individually meaningful and contextualised through course and subject skill mapping to provide a more flexible and engaging experience. This was supplemented by a live online session with an Academic Skills Adviser.

Feedback from staff was that the materials were simple enough for the beginners and specific enough for more advanced students, and that they covered the variety of skills required to complete tasks used in their core subjects. This allowed students to feel more confident in utilising the support available to them, as well as reinforcing the importance of skills development as part of the university experience.

This initiative, born in response to a global pandemic which forced residential schools to be re-imagined, highlighted strategies which effectively reduce barriers for all online students, not just those who would have missed an important residential school. This experience has informed our approach to further enhancement of the student experience with support services in the online environment, including the incorporation of more interactive activities, allowing students to experiment with skills such as sentence and paragraph structure and finding their academic ‘voice’.

The images below show an example of the content students were provided in the Charles Sturt University learning management system.

International Peer Mentors at The University of Adelaide

Shawna Hooton, International Student Advisor, International Student Support, Student Life, The University of Adelaide

The International Peer Mentors at the University of Adelaide jumped into action as soon as social distancing restrictions started. An impromptu brainstorming emergency meeting (through Zoom) was called, and the team decided they could swiftly shift our weekly CommuniTeas into a virtual space. Each of the Seniors volunteered to host 2 virtual CommuniTeas with their pod of 5 Junior IPMs. They developed run sheets, powerpoint with a mixture of discussion topics for breakout rooms, and information from our guest speakers - the Writing Centre, the French club, and the Exams office. The hour-long Zoom sessions every Friday 10.30-11.30am consistently had 30+ attendees – keen to ask questions of the guests, chat with a small group in a breakout room about how they’re managing stress, and play games like virtual scavenger hunt, Kahoot quizzes, or participate in a group meditation session. The Seniors promptly developed digital posters, and promoted the sessions on social media channels. As a result, our international student cohort have been able to maintain continuity of community and a social space to touch base during these isolating times.

The Senior IPMs also proposed an ISS Instagram takeover by the IPM team for 30 days of quarantine fun! For the month of April, they competed with each other for the most engagement from a post – and they absolutely surpassed our expectations! They’ve increased traffic on the page, with 15% growth, daily posts viewed by up to 540+ people, and consistent student engagement. A few popular themes include:

- cooking demos

- book and movie recommends

- work out tips

- karaoke

- Indian food taste test

- cutest pets ever

This social media take-over not only provided the IPMs with a platform for showcasing some of their hobbies/special skills, but it also provided an opportunity for international students to share their own suggestions, hobbies, and pet memories. The IPMs did an amazing job of creating eye-catching video posts, while keeping the essence of the activity in line with the programs objective of supporting all international student to experience a sense of belonging and connectivity on campus.

International Student Support is so proud of the care and commitment our Senior IPMs demonstrated for our international student cohort – a particularly vulnerable cohort during this pandemic. Using their tech/social media savviness and positivity to bring students together exemplifies the true spirit of the University of Adelaide, and what community legends they truly are!

PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) go online at UTS

Georgina Barratt-See, Manager, Peer Learning Programs

In the past 12 years I have sat through countless presentations of PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions) going online and generally have been underwhelmed by the impact. Often students would not turn up, it was harder to get engagement and training and choosing a learning platform was an additional pressure and expense. In addition, our university promoted active, engaged face to face learning on campus. So I had stayed away from online PASS, with what I thought were good reasons. 

Until COVID.

We had not begun our PASS sessions for the semester when the call came to go online. Being a bit immune compromised, I was already bunkered down at home, and threw myself into setting up Zoom sessions, consulting other PASS professionals and generally working hard to get the leaders to tell me if they could come with me on this journey.

We lost a few leaders along the way – they didn’t have the equipment or the internet, their parents owned a supermarket, they just didn’t think they could, but the large part of the team, over 90 leaders and 180 classes a week delved into the online PASS with gusto.

What did we learn?

  1. You can’t co-host multiple Zooms at once. Oh woah this was FUN. Not.  The way we found out that you can’t co-host multiple zooms was by setting up 180 links and then finding they were all wrong because students couldn’t get into the classes. Cue massive heart attack/urgent fixes. Eventually it was worked out.
  2. Texting leaders is your best friend. How do you find out if leaders can do sessions, train them and start the classes within a week? Don’t rely on email. Don’t rely on teams. Send texts and explain it’s urgent.
  3. Utilise your online learning people.  I ran 3 Zoom training sessions over 3 days, and it wasn’t until the third day that I talked to the online learning people and got more insight into what Zoom was actually capable of.  Probably should’ve done that first. Oops.
  4. Give yourself longer than a week. I was a bit crazy and only gave us a week to get all leaders trained and all sessions running. This was not remotely long enough. Not. Even. Close.
  5. Your student leaders are inspirational. All semester I have watched in abject awe as my leaders created community online. They have used great new tools and taken the social justice underpinning of PASS and of supporting students to the nth degree. I couldn’t be more proud of them than if I had given birth to them.
  6. Online works but with limitations. It’s almost impossible for a student to completely tune out in a good PASS face to face session. It’s completely possible in online. They turn their camera off, they turn their microphone off, or perhaps they never had them, and the leader struggles to get their attention or even to know if they’re there at all.  Face to face is better.
  7. Online has big advantages: It’s so much easier to “drop in” and check how a session is going than schlepping all over campus! It’s much easier to cope with unexpected class sizes, because the room is always big enough. Students are sometimes able to come when they couldn’t otherwise. And revision sessions worked much better. Normally I emailed timetabling  at least 50 times in a semester with cancellations and bookings and room issues.  This semester, it’s less than 5.
  8. We did it. I’ve worked in higher education for over 20 years, and had approximately 40 semesters of experience. This was the hardest semester, bar none. But we did it!!

PASS Alumni Experience Sharing: UniPASS Professional Development Evening goes Online

Amanda Smith, Peer Learning Coordinator, UniPASS, Curtin University

Every semester, the UniPASS peer learning team at Curtin University holds a professional development evening for their casual Peer Learning Facilitators (PLFs, often called PASS Leaders).  Usually it involves catching up socially and building some rapport over a good catered dinner (on campus Kebabs and Nando’s have been previous favourites) then an hour or 2 of training, workshops or discussions that relate to education or future work and career development.  This semester, during COVID lockdown, the team had to think outside the box, and chose to use Zoom to host a panel of previous PLFs to discuss their transition to work after graduating from university.

I invited eight previous PLFs from various industries, and all eight jumped at the chance to catch up with their previous workmates and share their experiences. Many of them noted that they had gained a lot from previous professional development evenings and said they were keen to ‘give back’.

The panel consisted of UniPASS Alumni who are now working in the following diverse areas:

Consultant with EY (Ernst and Young); IT area, Woodside; Mechanical Engineer and Business Graduate with BHP; Grad Program, State Government Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation; Sessional Academic with Curtin and UWA and Research Assistant at UWA; Graduate Accountant with Harvey Norman; Aged Care Physiotherapist and Sessional Tutor with Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin; Economist with State Government Department of Regional NSW.

Over the evening, all 27 PLFs in attendance were able to have a general chat and catch up with each other, then the panel discussed their journey to the workplace, their experiences of the recruitment and selection processes, and how they are enjoying their current role.

A recurring theme was the idea of ‘imposter syndrome’, where these high achieving students now find themselves questioning their capacity to do their new jobs. However, they all agreed that remembering that you are still learning, asking lots of questions, being very proactive and self-reflective, and being kind to yourself all help to achieve and grow in a new role.  They all feel that their PASS experience has been invaluable in building their skills and giving them an edge over other graduates.  There was also a lot of advice given around starting the search for work very early in your university studies – don’t wait until your final semester!  All of this was fantastic for the current team of PLFs, many of whom will be transitioning to work in the next year.

The team really enjoyed the event, and feedback was very positive. For example:

“It was also great to hear from multiple presenters that UniPASS developed many of their soft skills such as their public speaking, ability to communicate with various stakeholders and capability to design learning materials. It’s clear that UniPASS is thus highly valuable for PLFs as well as attendees…All in all, the PD night was highly insightful and an awesome experience.”  (Senior PLF, Faculty of Health Sciences)

“…it was so cool to meet everyone and hear about their experiences, so different yet so positive.  So thank you again for this opportunity, it felt like a breath of fresh air. ” (new PLF, Faculty Business and Law)

“Thank you for an amazing PD night. It was definitely very useful and now I am more confident to say that it is okay for me to have some lack of confidence but still try my best no matter what.  Thanks again…and (I’m) looking forward to the next PD night with another group of amazing panellists.” (Senior PLF, Faculty Health Sciences)

Both myself and Tracy Piper, the UniPASS management team, were extremely happy with the event - it was run efficiently but also felt very relaxed and friendly, and has opened up ideas about including previous PLFs from across the globe in future events.  Attendance was also similar to our face to face professional development evenings, despite the absence of catering!

As Tracy, who is newer to the program, noted, “It was amazing to see the collegiate atmosphere between the current and previous PLFs. The previous PLFs were so willing to share their experiences in graduating and finding jobs, and the current PLFs were very enthusiastic about learning from them and asking questions. The UniPASS community is obviously a welcoming and inclusive space, and it’s so nice to see this continue even when people are no longer studying or working at Curtin.”


For Your Information

Coming newsletter editions

We are looking forward to your submissions for the remaining 2020 newsletters.  During 2020, the newslettter will be issued every second month.  Please see the upcoming themes and submission deadlines below.

You may send your submissions at any time to 

August/September: Supporting Indigenous Students and Supporting Employability and Careers of Students

For the August/September’s newsletter, please send us your examples of how you and your colleagues are supporting indigenous students and also how you and your colleagues are supporting students as they prepare for their future careers, including developing key employability skills and helping students to discover their future career paths. Submissions are due 24 August 2020 and can be emailed to

October/November: Safe and Healthy Campuses and Communication and Engagement with Students

For October/November, we are looking for articles that discuss and highlight the initiatives and programmes that help create safe and healthy campuses across Australia and New Zealand. These can be articles that discuss student involvement with ensuring health, safety, and well-being on campuses, initiatives that equip students with skills to lead healthy lives, crisis or disaster response systems, etc.   We are also soliciting articles that address effective channels of communication with students, social media for learning and engagement, and the student perspective on communication within their university

Please email your submissions to by 24 October 2020.

Resources to support effective higher education delivery during and beyond COVID-19

The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) has established a new webpage, compiling essential resources to support effective higher education delivery during, and beyond, the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the COVID-19 situation rapidly unfolds worldwide, the majority of students have found themselves in a position of “disadvantage” — academically, logistically, financially, and/or personally. Research, resources and supports originally targeting equity students are rapidly becoming universally applicable.

A diverse collection of open access research, resources, articles and case studies are available on the NCSEHE website. The new webpage provides easy access to existing materials (both NCSEHE and other) that are applicable to emerging issues in university learning and teaching in this COVID-19 era. These will be continually updated over the coming months.

If you would like to suggest further items to be listed, please contact  Click here to access resources

Student Affairs and Services in Higher Education: Global Foundations, Issues, and Best Practices, 3rd ed

Roger B. Ludeman, Editor-in-Chief, IASAS Book on Student Affairs and Services around the World
President Emeritus, International Association of Student Affairs and Services (IASAS)

With 250 authors, advisors and editors from over 125 countries this book is a truly global collaborative effort to capture the diverse, significant and expansive theories, frameworks, practices, models and services provided by Student Affairs and Services in Higher Education across the globe. This comprehensive book is the reference book for scholars, researchers and practitioners across the globe on all matters related to Student Affairs in Higher Education. The informative chapters cover a vast breadth of issues including principles, values, theories and frameworks, professionalization, research and scholarship, social justice, equality and gender issues, engagement, internationalization, retention and graduate competencies, governance and student participation, leadership and migration, a discussion of over 42 functional areas and almost 100 country reports. The authors are of the highest caliber and greatest diversity and share their formidable knowledge and experience, all detailing the immense impact Student Affairs and Services have in Higher Education across the globe.

This 629 paged book is edited by Roger B. Ludeman (editor in chief) and Birgit Schreiber who have brought together a formidable collection of authors presenting a diverse lens and textured understanding of this essential part of Higher Education. Each author has contributed his and her experience making this a rich, comprehensive and compelling resource for all Higher Education across the globe.


Research Project: Examination of recruitment and support practices for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student

I am writing to let you know about a research study that you have the option to take part in. The research is being conducted by La Trobe University. I am contacting you because we are interested in the views of those working in the higher education or vocational education sector. We are particularly interested in the views of those with student admissions, student support, or course/program coordination experience.

This research is being done to learn more about best practice in the recruitment of and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. This information is hoped to assist us in ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students receive the support, information and care required to complete their tertiary studies and ultimately increase the number of health professionals required to meet the health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Taking part in this research study is optional. We are looking for people who want to take part in this research and who are:

  • Working in the high education or vocational educational sectors, and
  • Have experience in student admissions, course/program delivery, or student support services.

If you decide to take part in the research, you may choose to participate via an online survey, individual online interview, or online focus group. You may choose to participate in one, two or all three of these options. If you choose to participate in one or more of these activities, we would:

  • Ask you to complete an online survey using this link: 

Pathways Health

The survey should take approximately 15 minutes of your time. You may choose to stop the survey at any time by closing your browser, and/or

  • Ask you to participate in an interview using an online platform (Zoom). The interview should take approximately 30 minutes of your time. You may choose to stop the interview at any time by closing your browser, and/or
  • Ask you to participate in an online focus group using an online platform (Zoom) with between 4-6 other people. The focus group should take approximately 45 minutes of your time. You may choose to stop participating at any time by closing your browser. 

If you would like more information about the project or to express interest in participating in either an interview or focus group please contact Dr Andrea Simpson - - ph: 03 9479 1821

Taking part in this research study is voluntary. You may choose not to take part. If you decide not to take part in this research, your decision will not affect your relationship with La Trobe University.

This research has been reviewed and approved by The La Trobe University Human Research Ethics Committee. If you have any complaints or concerns about the research study please email or phone +61 3 9479 1443 quoting the following number HEC20134.


Professional Development Opportunities

ANZSSA Conference 

As you would be aware, the ANZSSA Executive made the decision to cancel the 2020 ANZSSA Conference, which was to be held in Perth, due to logistical reasons brought about by the CoVid-19 pandemic, however we are very much looking forward to welcoming you all to Perth in 2021!  

As always, we welcome your input - if you have an idea for Professional Development or Resource and Information sharing that you think could be offered by ANZSSA, please contact the ANZSSA Office -

ANZSSA Professional Focus Groups

COVID Conversations

Our COVID Conversations, held in Professional Focus Groups over Zoom during June and July have all proved popular.  These informal conversations have provided an opportunity for ANZSSA members in similar roles to take part in a professional discussion about our response to COVID19 – how it impacted students and staff in higher education institutions and changes made to delivery of student services. The conversations have focussed on lessons learnt and future challenges and opportunities.  

Further discussion and sharing of resources will continue in the PFG groups via the portals on the ANZSSA website - if you haven' yet joined a PFG, you can do so here.

DOSSANZ Online Gathering

As a result of a DOSSANZ Symposium being cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19, we are holding a virtual get together.  An agenda will be forwarded in due course and it will include a safe supportive platform amongst the group to discuss topics of high interest and relevance for 2020.  We are splitting the gathering over 2 x 2 hour zoom sessions acknowledging that finding more time in your schedule right now is likely challenging and in the spirit of not contributing to zoom-burn out.  We do hope you can join us. 

Dates are : Tuesday 4 August 2020 and Wednesday 12 August - 10:00am-12noon AEST

You can register for these gatherings via the ANZSSA Calendar - the Zoom link will be sent to all registrants


Indigenous PFG - Meet the Convenors

Jamie Hape and David Warrener (Indigenous Focus Group Co-Convenors) are requesting details from the ANZSSA Indigenous Network so we can stay in contact and to keep you best informed of professional development opportunities, activities and networking. We are also interested in your ideas and feedback to assist us in providing Indigenous Focus Group members with the best information, resources and professional development opportunities as we are able.

To join the Indigeous PFG, complete the form here.

My name is David Warrener and I am a counsellor for Riawunna Centre for Aboriginal Education and Student Wellbeing for the University of Tasmania. I am a pakana man (Tasmanian Aboriginal) with over 20 years’ experience as a social worker and counsellor. I have served my community for many years mainly through counselling, community development and education, as well as being strongly involved on issues of social justice. I am focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student success and work within a cultural  framework that aims to create positive change so that students can reach their goals by empowerment and education. I look forward to working alongside you as a co-convenor for the Indigenous Focus Group to assist with professional development opportunities and of networking activities for the ANZZSA membership.

Kia ora
Nō ngā iwi ō Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Rārua, Te Ātiawa au
I tipu ake au ki Pōneke engari e noho ana au ki Ōtautahi
He Kaiurungi Matua au ki te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha
Ko Jamie Hape tōku ingoa.

My name is Jamie Hape and my role within Te Waka Pākākano | the Office of Māori, Pacific and Equity is to support our Māori students through their journey at the University of Canterbury. I have more than 15 years within tertiary education and I am passionate about supporting and engaging our indigenous students in Aotearoa New Zealand. I am also studying towards a Masters in Māori and Indigenous studies looking at indigeneity in tertiary education and the benefits it brings to not only our Māori students but all students. I look forward to working alongside Dave and our Indigenous ANZSSA Executive member Caroline Spotswood and growing our indigenous ANZSSA community.




There has been enormous staffing changes within the higher education sector across Australia and New Zealand over the last few years so I thought it timely to give a fuller introduction of JANZSSA, the fully online journal published by ANZSSA. 

JANZSSA is dedicated to research and enhancing professional practice and the promotion of excellence in the delivery of student services within the Australia and New Zealand post-secondary sectors. So if you work in student services and putting the student at the centre of your day is your goal then JANZSSA is your professional journal. 

JANZSSA  is published twice yearly and relies heavily on the ANZSSA members and student services staff more broadly who submit articles for publication. Articles can be submitted for peer review to be published as a peer reviewed article or be submitted as an article that is approved for publication by the editorial process.  Accepted articles via peer review are usually reporting on research, service or practice evaluation, or provided a substantial literature review. These articles may have been submitted for inclusion in an ANZSSA conference and been peer reviewed as part of that process.  Articles that are not peer reviewed are usually outlining service innovation, best practice or making comment on service delivery, emerging practice or student needs. Book reviews are also welcomed. Submitting an article for publication in JANZSSA is encouraged as a professional development activity for anyone working in student services domains. Considerable support is offered by the editorial team so first time authors are encouraged to write about their work and the work of their service teams. 

The number of articles able to be published in the April issue (1) were impacted by the arrival of the CoVid-19 and the resultant disruption to business as usual within the HE sector. By the time you read this newsletter the first issue for JANZSSA 2020 will have been published and I am delighted to report that we received and were able to publish four articles. Congratulations are due to those ANZSSA members who rose to the occasion in these challenging times. You can read the articles published in the April JANZSSA and past issues via this link: 

JANZSSA needs you... 

Be a JANZSSA author: this is an invitation to you and your colleagues to reflect on your work and the work of your student services team, to draft and polish and then submit an article for publication in the October issue 2020 or the April issue 2021. Submission details and deadlines are located at here:

Be a JANZSSA Peer Reviewer: The Editorial team are inviting ANZSSA members to participate in the publication of JANZSSA by offering to be a 'peer reviewer' or an assistant editor. Due to the major staffing changes that have occurred in the last few years many of those who were contributing in these roles have moved on to life and work beyond student services so I ask you to give consideration to helping in these roles. You will also find a description of what is asked of a peer reviewer in the blog spot also located at

Be a JANZSSA Associate Editor: The JANZSSA team is also offering training to ANZSSA members who are interested in becoming involved in the JANZSSA editorial team through the role of assistant editor. This role engages with the editorial tasks under the guidance of the current JANZSSA editors. There are three vacancies for associate editor currently available. 

If you are interested in either or both of the roles (peer reviewer and/or associate editor) please email with the following information: Name, Role and focus of role, educational institution, plus outline (if) any relevant experience in document editing, academic writing, publishing etc. 

Given that there will not be an ANZSSA conference this year due to the disruption of CoVid -19 getting involved with JANZSSA offers an excellent opportunity to keep involved in your professional development.

Best wishes to you all for the remainder of 2020,

Annie Andrews