Humanising Higher Education: Cultivating Academic Success through Positive, Student-Centred Experiences to Enhance Confidence and Independent Learning
David Sotir, The University of Technology, Sydney (Australia)
The University of Technology Sydney’s Higher Education Language and Presentation Support Centre (HELPS) has created a paradigm shift by ‘humanising’ university education through holistically supporting students to develop their confidence, academic literacy, engagement and success.
HELPS’ internationally-focused team is committed to preparing students for global citizenship in an increasingly borderless world. Faithful to its student-centred ethos, it has demonstrably influenced, motivated and inspired learners in a diverse, multicultural and increasingly technological environment. HELPS has developed customised teaching and learning resources, programmes and services that reflect a command of the field while implementing evaluation practices leading to improvements in higher education amongst a 40,000+ student population.
HELPS’ distinctive ‘No Wrong Door’ approach guarantees no student is turned away. By conducting ‘warm’ referrals, students with issues relating to language, literacy and counselling are guided through pathways to seamlessly and effectively accommodate their needs. Through promotion of its distinctive features of immediate accessibility, comprehensive service content and face-to-face, personalised consultations, the continual and dramatic growth in student participation has resulted in literally thousands of individuals having accessed HELPS’ services to date.
Underpinned by sound pedagogical theory, HELPS promotes confidence and a sense of belonging within the respective communities of practice, facilitating successful transition into university, along the learning continuum and beyond graduation. Through harnessing the power of volunteering programmes it also connects students, staff, alumni and community members using a peer-voiced, ‘insider approach’. Integration of a peer-assisted study success programme, and a cross-promotional, cohesive strategy have bolstered participation in peer-to-peer learning support sessions.
In 2015, HELPS received a UTS Teaching and Learning Award for ‘Academic Support’ and in 2016 garnered national recognition with an Australian Office of Learning and Teaching Citation for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning’. This paper will discuss and share the ideas that have guided HELPS to consolidate its position within the higher education sphere as a centre of best practice, providing positive learning experiences that enhance student literacy, confidence and academic success.
Keywords: student-centred experiences, academic literacy, independent learning