First-time university students often find themselves in need of a little help, advice or encouragement. This is what Melanie, one of OUA’s Student Coaches, loves being able to provide. Melanie is one of the youngest members of the Student Success team, but she has wisdom and experience beyond her years, and a way about her that feels warm and nurturing. Her years as a student are still at the forefront of her memory, so she’s in the perfect position to help you through the whirlwind of stress, nerves and triumphs that make up the university experience.
Melanie has always had a curiosity for human behaviour and a passion for helping people, which led her to study Psychology at Victoria University. She emerged with an Honours degree in 2014, and ended up joining the Victoria University team of staff, where she moved through the roles of administration officer, disability support worker and academic writing mentor. Many of the useful skills she has brought to the table at OUA were gained through these roles, which included helping disabled students take notes in lectures and tutorials, ensuring they understood their course materials and helping students in general with the tricky details of academic writing.
We asked her if she had some golden nuggets of advice to offer, for anyone considering or already commenced studying an online course. Here’s some of her best advice.
Melanie speaks a lot about the fear of the unknown, and how uncertainty affects a person’s behaviour. Melanie was the first in her family to take on a uni degree, so she understands how vulnerable students can feel. Even the small uncertainties, like how to reference, can cause major episodes of stress and self-doubt. Melanie’s favourite part of the job is being able to shine a light on the unknown and help students to see that uni is manageable if you take it one step at a time. Equipping students with knowledge, resources and strategies is an important part of coaching, and acknowledging that every person is different is key to the way Melanie works. For her, it’s all about finding a solution that fits the individual.
Student Coach Vs. Uni Tutor
If you’re studying online with OUA, you’ll have access to OUA’s Student Coaches, as well as the tutors from the university you’re enrolled with. So who does what, and where is the line drawn? Melanie explains the role of student coach as someone who can guide you to success. While uni tutors are responsible for assigning, explaining and assessing actual coursework, student coaches serve students in a broader sense, less specific to coursework, and more focused on helping students manage the overall university experience. To give you a better idea- student coaches are experts at breaking down tasks and suggesting smaller more immediate goals. They offer useful techniques on how to work study into your lifestyle, they can serve as a sounding board to bounce ideas off, they can help to transform a negative mindset, and they can empower you to make smart decisions. Of course, uni tutors can do these things too, but this is the sole function of a Student Coach, and they’ll always have time to work with you in depth on how to resolve your difficulties.
Keeping it realistic
One of Melanie’s top tips is to be aware of what you can and can’t handle. Uni can be difficult and sometimes overwhelming, so if you want to stay afloat, you need to give yourself a break. If you’re a self-confessed gym junkie, maybe there’s a way you can integrate exercise into your study routine, so you can free up some time to relax. For those go-getters who are adamant about cooking every night- remember to take the night off every once in a while for some zen time. At the end of the day, we’re all human and nobody can do it all. It’s about priorities, and if a tacky frozen meal once in a while is going to save your sanity, then sit back and let your microwave do the hard work.
The first step to managing procrastination is to acknowledge that it’s normal. Melanie herself admits to cooking and cleaning as procrastination, and while that sounds far more productive than YouTube and blowing paper spitballs through a straw, she can still recognise her behaviour as procrastination. Melanie says that it’s a matter of figuring out what’s at the root of a person’s reluctance to do what needs doing. Is the task too hard? Is it unclear how to make a start? Is it downright overwhelming? Once Melanie has helped a student identify their problem, she is able to work with them to set small, achievable goals to get them out of their rut and back on track.
Balancing work, life and study
While procrastination is not such a good use of time, it doesn’t mean you can’t get up from your desk for a change of pace. In fact, it’s a great idea, and when you return, that renewed mental energy will make up for the time you spent away. Melanie personally loves running, as it gets her blood pumping and clears her mind. She sees no problem with making time to indulge in guilty pleasures, and recommends visiting friends and family to break out of your study solitude. Her favourite place in the world is Williamstown (in Victoria), which brings back childhood memories of her grandparents’ house and fills her with nostalgic comfort. Doing something you love works wonders for productivity, because if you treat your brain to its happy chemicals, it will be far more willing to cooperate in return.
Despite the perks of studying online, it can sometimes feel a little isolated. Sometimes you might miss , that element of instant feedback you might get in a real classroom. So if you’re ever feeling alone, the best thing you can do is give Melanie or one of OUA’s Student Coaches a call. Sometimes you just need a different perspective to help you out of a rut, and who better to talk to than a knowledgeable, friendly, former uni student like Melanie.