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TRANSCRIPT: Tales4Teaching ep. 80 – Empowering students though peer IT support

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Joan: Welcome to Tales4Teaching, a podcast where we explore stories with purpose in higher education. We’ll share expert insights, engaging interviews, and thought-provoking discussions that will inspire your teaching. On behalf of Deakin University I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the unceded lands and waterways on which you are located. I acknowledge the Wadawurrong people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners on which this podcast was recorded, and I pay my respects to Elders past, present and future. 

My name is Joan Sutherland and this is Tales4Teaching, brought to you by Deakin Learning Futures.

Hello and welcome to today’s podcast. I am here talking to Megan O’Brien, who is the manager of Campus Libraries and Enquiry Services here at Deakin.

Hello, Megan. Thank you for joining me.

Megan: Hi, Joan. Thanks for having me.

Joan: No worries. To get us started, on the podcast today, if you can just give us a little bit about yourself and your role here at Deakin.

Megan: Sure. My name is Megan O’Brien, as you just introduced me. So my title is Manager of Campus Libraries and Enquiry Services.

What that mouthful kind of means is that I, um, manage the frontline experience of our campus libraries.

So, our enquiry channels, which are phone, live chat and face to face, across our extended hours, particularly throughout, um, trimester times.

We’re open 8 a.m., through to 9 p.m., um, 24 hours around exam periods.

So, um, yeah, that’s that’s pretty much what I do.

Joan: So we’re here today talking about the, uh, student TechAssist program.

And just to give us some context about the program itself, can you just, um, explain to us what prompted the idea for this, uh, actual program?

Megan: Sure. So the library noticed a gap in service over the last couple of years, um, specifically for commencing students when they were setting up and navigating the various systems and platforms and technical stuff that they that they needed to enable them to start their studies so commencing students, it’s a it’s a very crucial point in that student life cycle.

Um, and on top of that, libraries are the busiest buildings on campus. So students naturally gravitate towards us when they need help. We found that we were already assisting students with a lot of, um, technical types of inquiries, but there wasn’t really any framework or defined touchpoints for referral.

We want commencing students to have, you know, they come onto campus during orientation in the first few weeks.

They’re excited, they want to get in and get started. So if we can remove as many roadblocks as possible during that time, you know, they have a better experience, a better experience all around.

Joan: So can you explain to me what the actual student TechAssist program is?

Megan: The TechAssist program is, um, separate to an IT service in that we, uh, aimed at just helping students get connected, to all of the platforms that they need to, uh, navigate in their learning journey.

So, um, we cover, um, uh, setting up their CloudDeakin D2L and navigating that platform, um, multi-factor authentication, which can be, um, a little bit tricky depending on what device you’re using.

Wi-fi connection, which was our biggest, um, our largest inquiries were on connecting to wi-fi and Eduroam, printing came a close second.

So setting up printing on personal devices and basic Microsoft setup and I think has some, uh, student TechAssist, um, team members would, would say, um, all of the other bits and pieces that the different students need for their specific courses.

So knowing what’s free for students, um, was a huge help for them.

Joan: And so was it designed to alleviate the pressure from the library staff as well?

Megan: Yes and no. Um, it was it was designed to, yes, capture that 35% of,  inquiries that were technology related in those commencing weeks.

But also I guess the aim was to to put a framework in place where we know that we can help with wi-fi, with printing and, and it’s a definite like service level, and knowing the referral points as well and where to refer to.

So both the TechAssist staff and the library staff now have a, you know, a, a guideline of, of where to go to help.

Joan: Wow, how often it’s the referral otherwise and people can just shut off and not come back, let’s say not use the service.

Now I know this was a collaborative process or collaborative project across Deakin – DLF, Deakin Learning Futures, the CX Hub and IT Service Desk.

Can you share more about that collaboration and how that unfolded?

Megan: You’re right, it was truly collaborative. We had quite a, uh, a short period of time to get the service up and running for T1.

So once we were approved to go ahead with this, with this pilot project. Um, had a few meetings, I’ll have to say, with Deakin Learning Futures, CX Hub and IT nutting out how we were going to go about it. Um, so the first thing that we, um, had to think about, I guess, was training.

Um, how we ran it. So we ran, uh, face to face training sessions for all of our library student assistants across all four campus libraries. Uh, we also did an online training session that was recorded for future reference for our library student assistants.

I guess I’ll use this opportunity to shout out. So, um, Wayne Amos and Nick Bennett. Uh, sorry. Nick Bassett from CX Hub, Emily Bradshaw, Kathryn Perus, and Trish McCluskey from Digital Learning. So we worked together. Um, and it was actually quite an achievement to pull it together so quickly. Um, and I guess the other aspect besides the training, as I’ve touched on, it was important for us as a group to define and agree on the scope of the service and where the referral touchpoints were, as well as, um, how we wanted to evaluate the success of the program.

Joan: So there are there are several, uh, theoretical frameworks that underpin the concept of peer support and can help explain why this program is could be effective.

So how does the theory of peer support underpin the student tick assist program?

Megan: So we know that at Deakin we do have um, across the organisation a strong belief in students helping students and peer support approach.

And I see our Student TechAssist program as a natural extension of our already existing programs from the first pilot.

The benefits that I have noticed so far have been the LSAs, they’re native to the digital and learning environments, uh, that commencing students need to, um, need to connect to so they’re able to help commencing students from their own experience.

I personally observed um, uh, TechAssist um team imparting hints and tricks, but they hadn’t necessarily been taught in our training programs.

Um, but it’s just that kind of, you know, um, personal imparting of knowledge and wisdom, I guess, that they’d learned throughout their own student journey.

Um, and I think another aspect that’s not often recognised is the social aspect of peer support. Last year the library did some UX work which specifically looked at commencing students and their journey. And we did find that there were pain points in that, um, commencing student journey and connecting to technology. But one of the the big things that we also discovered was that real fear of finding social connections when starting at university. So having our friendly LSAs, library student assistants there in the library as a welcoming face, who, you know, weren’t necessarily behind a scary desk. Um, yeah, it just made it them, um, I think, approachable and students kind of felt a bit more comfortable asking for help in that context.

Joan: All right. So there was a lot to learn and a really positive, a positive experience by the sounds of things.

What challenges did you face while implementing this initiative, if any, and how did you overcome them?

Megan: One of the challenges was the popularity of the service, um, particularly,  during week weeks, one and two of trimester. So during those busiest weeks, we actually had to roster extra LSAs to support the service. So if you can call, popularity a challenge, which is something that we will, we’ll look to improve in as we continue in T2.

So in trimester two, when we continue the pilot, we will definitely take those learnings on board and, roster, roster, our library student assistants, um, a little bit more strategically.

Uh, I guess another challenge was making sure that our colleagues across the whole university understood the scope of the service, that it’s it’s not an I.T. support desk.

It’s a first tier assistance point, um, for students to get, um, set up digitally for study. But I’m, I’m, I’m pretty confident that as the program continues, that the distinction between I.T. support and TechAssist will become much clearer.

Joan: Yeah. So how do you believe the program aligns with or enhances Deakin’s pedagogical approach?

Megan: I guess if you think about Deakin’s GLOs and design principles, you could argue that TechAssist underpins and supports that those, um, pedagogical aims, um, holistically. So I guess by ensuring our students are not met with those technological barriers when they can commence, we’re setting them up for success by giving them all the tools that they need to navigate their courses easily.

Joan: Absolutely. I think so too. Like that friction point can be really detrimental to whether someone continues or what type of experience they are having.

So I definitely have to agree with that. So it sounds like it’s meeting that need.

Even though you’ve got the challenge of the popularity.

Megan: It’s hard being popular.

Joan: Yeah. So my final question, um, before I let you go, is, in what ways has the program success impacted or influenced future plans for library services or similar student led programs or initiatives?

Megan: Uh, we’ll definitely be continuing this particular pilot in trimester two, and we’ll continue to evaluate its impact in terms of other student led support initiatives.

The library is always open to, um, to any student led initiatives.

We are working on a project at the moment that’s looking at embedding UX practice across our whole organisation, um, in the library.

So, hopefully what we can uncover with some of our user experience work is other touch points where we might be able to, utilise our library student assistants to make the, the student experience in general, um, improved.

Joan: A lot going on.

Megan: Yes.

Joan: And then, uh, just one last question.

Any advice you’d like to give anyone that was thinking of doing such a program in their own institutions?

Megan: Yes. I would say that, uh, the pilot that we are currently, um, implementing has already proven that students need a service like this.

Um, I would expect that it’s a similar experience for students in other organisations.

So, um, I would highly recommend piloting, um, something like this in other organisations.

Joan: Alright, I really want to thank you for your time today Megan. And I look forward to interviewing students and hearing their side of the experience, because it sounds like it’s been an overwhelming success.

Megan: Thanks for having me, Joan. You’re welcome. Thank you.

30 May 2024

Last modified: 12 June 2024 at 4:00 pm

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