Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Meet Connor: a Student Learning Assistant who's ready to help you

The Study and Learning Centre is THE place on campus to get free study and learning advice. Open to all RMIT students it helps you build your academic skills in a friendly environment. The centre is staffed by experienced Learning Advisors and with Student Learning Assistants (fellow students). 

Today we're profiling Connor Jolley, one of the amazing Student Learning Assistants (SLAs). He's interviewed by Adam Browne, an RMIT University Library Attendant and published sci-fi author. The bearded gents discuss what it's like to be a Student Learning Assistant.

Two bearded men
Connor (left) and Adam (right) beard bumping
Adam: I interviewed Connor in the Study and Learning Centre's drop-in space in Building 80. The Student Learning Advisors (SLAs) are the sort of people you instantly feel comfortable with; they’re energetic and merry and clearly on your side
Connor graduated from the Bachelor of Environment and Society program last year and is about to commence the Bachelor of Social Science (Honours) program this semester. Before studying he was frustrated “It was either become a student, or work in a call-centre for the rest of my life.” Perhaps because of this, he’s keen to ensure the students he works with have every opportunity to realise their potential.
Adam: So what made you decide to become an SLA?
Connor: It w
as about getting a part time job, and also the opportunity to work on campus. I was quite taken with the teaching aspect of it -- we get a lot of experience in facilitated teaching environments. I’m considering taking up tutoring. I might be able to do it if I do a PhD.
Adam: What are some questions you get asked at the SLC drop-in?
Connor: A lot of people come in asking for us to check their grammar and so on. But we don’t do proofreading -- what we do is teach them how to proofread for themselves.
Note that RMIT subscribes to the Smarthinking Writing Centre, where students can submit work online. It’s free for students. Again, this service doesn’t proofread, exactly, but they can focus on certain areas, like grammar and spelling.
Adam: When you’re dealing with students, what do you specialise in?
Connor: For me, writing. I’m pretty good at explaining essays; I mean the high-level, structural stuff. I can sit down with someone and look at their introduction, then look for a clear logical progression of points leading to an overall argument; I look for this in each paragraph along the way. I often help with essay planning too. Of course, we have people who are good at maths and physics, and so on, but I can still help. I can tell them they need to approach it in a certain way -- ‘your lecturer is asking these questions; this is what you need to get out of those questions…’
Adam: Do you have any tips for students new to university studies?
Connor: I would advise them to get a good understanding of what the expectations on them are. They need to know what their lecturer is asking of them -- if it’s an essay, or a project, know the basic mechanics of those things.
Adam: Do you get feedback about improvements?
Connor: If stu
dents come in regularly, we can see a good, clear progression in their development. A common problem is that they need to learn how to think about a question, or how to follow a set of instructions; when we explain that to them, it can be a bit of a revelation for them; we see great developments then.
Adam: What will you take from your experience of being an SLA into your future career?
I think it builds up confidence. I feel I’m able to walk into any situation and quickly assess it and be able to speak to whatever it is that somebody’s doing. We do quite a few workshops too -- these are with students from English Worldwide. Public speaking, for example -- it’s a skill that I’ll certainly be able to carry over into my working life.

So now it's over to you, drop-in to the Study and Learning Centre on your campus. There are lots of great people who can help you maximise your academic success!