The QUT Extreme Science and Engineering Van is usually on the road every day of the school year, but in 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic saw the physical delivery of the program parked.
Unwavering in their mission to build aspiration for university study, the QUT Science and Engineering Faculty (SEF) Widening Participation Program embraced digital transformation and technology with a new online peer learning assistance strategy.
The online peer learning program was developed to help support under-represented school groups through the return to school and beyond.
“We needed to re-evaluate our program offerings to match the changing needs of schools, students and teachers,” said Sara Sheather, the Widening Participation Engagement Officer.
“We particularly wanted to support students who have had their final years of high school disrupted and would potentially be at a greater disadvantage due to social and economic factors.”
The online peer learning program started with trials of year 11 and 12 students at Narangba Valley State High School and after the initial success, opened to QUT’s 55 Widening Participation partner schools from the first week of June.
Christine Vinaccia, one of the teachers at Narangba Valley State High School said that the online tutoring had provided students with valuable academic and wellbeing support.
Being mentored by a peer meant that the high school students received academic support, but also gained incidental access to a mentor in the STEM field with relevant student experiences.
“The best part of the program was the interaction with the university students answering questions on university life and the details on a physics degree,” said Narangba Valley State High School student James Taubert.
The success of the online delivery method will become an ongoing part of the program, even when usual in-school and on campus activities resume.
“It has been rewarding delivering online peer learning sessions to students who are just as keen to learn as we ambassadors are to teach,” said QUT Student Ambassador, Harshini.
As the program continues to develop, schools will be able to tailor the session to the needs of their students such as subject revision, assignment mentoring, pathways advice and guest speaking.
The SEF Widening Participation program is a long-standing outreach, admissions and support service for under-represented groups, that works primarily with students from year 4-12.
Since 2013, the program has delivered more than 2,300 workshops engaging 73,561 students with hands on, curriculum aligned content.