How our approach to student experience has shifted post-pandemic

Published 01/03/2024

Studying abroad is considered to be a life-changing experience for a young person and thanks to the global pandemic, there is far greater emphasis on supporting students to make strong connections as early as possible in their study journeys.

This focus is absolutely fantastic – because the impact this has on their entire student experience cannot be overlooked. Indeed, it is most often a key ingredient for students’ success.

While we invested heavily in students’ online learning experiences during the pandemic, we learned even more about the importance of their needs for security and belonging.

Now back on campus, we have reframed our approach to student wellbeing and support to become far more visible and accessible throughout our students’ journeys. When it comes to student support, we aim for hard to miss.

Establishing a sense of belonging early on

We know that offering more support in the crucial ‘Settling In’ phase helps students get up to speed with their studies more quickly. UNSW College is a close community focused on providing students with the tools and opportunities to make meaningful connections as soon as they arrive.

“Welcome Week” marks the first week of all programs at the College and aims to deliver a balance of practical and instructional program information, together with immersive social and cultural interactions and fun.

It is a week where we focus on normalising asking questions, seeking guidance and meeting new people.

We teach students a wide array of skills; from how to use our learning management system and understand course outlines and assessment guides, to recognising some of the challenges students may face in their first year. Throughout their experience, there is continual provision and guidance on who and where to go for help.

Peer support services provide greater accessibility for students who need help, whether it’s for mental or physical health needs, learning challenges, or more social, living in Sydney support.

Academically, students are responding well to a weekly, multi-session peer support program, which connects them with students who have already made the transition to UNSW.

“Student volunteers regularly take over College social media channels”

Regular events promoting cultural experiences, creative outlets and personal development opportunities highlight the unique experiences only a physical campus can offer.

And student volunteers regularly take over College social media channels promoting the multitude of opportunities which in turn encourage more friend groups to participate. This deliberate increase in peer-to-peer engagement has positively impacted our community, ensuring more students get the most out of their experience.

Supporting students when, where, and how they need it

As a result of the recent pandemic there is a greater focus today on normalising the need for, and access to mental health services, counselling, and safe spaces where students can discuss their anxieties and concerns.

Deliberate and close collaboration between academic and professional student support staff as well as established workflows for escalating student welfare issues enable teachers to guide students to assistance more effectively.

A dedicated in-house Under 18 Students Care Program offers 24/7 support and is designed specifically for the unique needs of younger students, their parents and agents. Under 18 support staff meet with Under 18 students every fortnight, and through these structured, social check-ins, are able to identify, discuss and resolve any study or personal issues together.

Silver linings

The pandemic uncovered many innovation opportunities in the international education sector.

It also heralded the importance of self-wellness, of relationships, and of social connections. As a result, we have crafted a student experience that has normalised asking for support, celebrates peer support and feels more connected as a result.

About the author: This is a sponsored post by Louise Knowles, Head of Student Experience, UNSW College.

At UNSW College, Louise Knowles isn’t just the Head of Student Experience – she’s its architect. With a seasoned eye for communication honed across continents and industries, Louise brings a dynamic, international flair to crafting stellar experiences for every student.

Louise champions a holistic approach, spearheading six key functions from vibrant communications and social media to engaging events and vital wellbeing support. She’s passionate about ensuring every student’s journey is well-rounded, empowering them to reach their full potential.

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