Unconventional Times in Higher Education: Evolving and Transforming – Student Support Perspectives

Conference: The Barcelona Conference on Education (BCE2022)
Title: Unconventional Times in Higher Education: Evolving and Transforming – Student Support Perspectives
Stream: Learning Experiences, Student Learning & Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Desiree Scholtz, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa
Sandra Williams, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa


The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated swift shifts to remote teaching and learning. This study explored the experiences of student support champions, (i.e. teaching assistants, tutors, mentors and retention officers) in providing support to first-year students during remote learning. The focus was on insights and learnings gained by these student support champions in having to provide affective and content support via unconventional remote modalities. This adaptation to change speaks to resilience thinking, which ‘involves being able to withstand or overcome adversity and unpleasant events and successfully adapt to change and uncertainty’ (Mcewen, 2011: 2). Learning to be resilient and adaptable to rise above challenges, is simultaneously transformative to create new ways of thinking and dealing with current situations. This qualitative study resides within the interpretivist paradigm and draws on the subjective experiences and understandings of research participants within a University of Technology. Student support champions completed surveys to garner their insights and experiences in providing online support to first-year students. Survey data were analysed according to emergent themes of challenges, improvements and future practices. The data revealed that despite the demands placed on student support champions, they managed to cope with their own studies and acquired attributes, dispositions and values due to their facilitation of student support engagement during remote learning. This study shows that the value of student support projects resides in acquiring attributes and skills beyond the formal curriculum. Times of complexity present opportunities to be resilient and to transform to changing circumstances.

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