As the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) restricts life around the globe, people across all professions and industries are working from home where they can. Given that schools, colleges and universities are shutting their doors to the majority of students, many university students are also still working hard from home to complete coursework and assignments remotely.

For many students, this uncertain time has increased the pressure and stress that they may already be feeling from going to university and living and studying independently for perhaps the first time. With this in mind, at Randstad Student Support we want to ensure that all eligible students are still able to access the university support that they are entitled to whilst studying remotely

And as a student support worker, that’s where you come in. As you may already be aware, we are working with your universities and our students to ensure that everything is set up for you to be able to provide all types of support remotely, from mentoring to BSL interpreting support. You should have already received communications from us about how to arrange support with your assigned student(s), but in the meantime, we have put together some top tips on how to best provide support remotely: we know that this is an unsettling and difficult time for you, as well as for the students you support.

Five tips for providing student support remotely:

  1. Communication, communication, communication
  2. Choose the best type of remote support for your student(s)
  3. Less is more
  4. Different differentiation
  5. Set targets and celebrate achievements 

Communication, communication, communication.

During this unusual and unsettling time of social distancing, it has never been more important to communicate with your friends and family, your students, and the Randstad team. As we have mentioned, we have already spoken to the universities and students we work with, and the vast majority still want to receive support remotely for as long as they require it. You may have already reached out to your student(s) to arrange sessions, but if not, or if you have not heard back from them please contact the team via the following email: studentsupport@randstad.co.uk and we can support you with this.

If you have spoken to your student(s) and they don’t want to continue with support remotely, but you would still like to work, please don’t panic! Just get in touch with us and we will work hard to match you with another suitable student, as quickly as we can.

Choose the best type of remote support for your student(s).

The beauty of providing support online is that there are many options available for how to do this - you are not limited by location or travel time to get to an in-person session. Some of the options available for providing remote support are:

  • Skype
  • Over the telephone
  • FaceTime or WhatsApp call
  • Google Hangout

It’s important to speak to students to find out which method suits them best, whilst balancing this with your own preferences: some students may prefer to chat on video call, whereas others may be more comfortable away from the camera. Whatever suits, there is a solution available.

Less is more.

Providing support and resources virtually is the new normal for the foreseeable future. So, maintaining the quality of support you provide during this time is key: you don’t want to overwhelm your students over the phone! Where you can, strip support and activities back to the fundamentals as you and your students get to grips with what works for you. Then you can layer complexity and additional tasks up over time. 

Some workers who have already had success providing support remotely say:

Meeting remotely helps to give structure to a students day, eg. instead of staying in bed they might feel more inclined to get up and start their 'working' day ready for their appointment, or may be more inclined to start their day earlier in preparation for our meeting.

Working online may help some students who find lectures in person stressful in terms of social anxiety around crowds or in lectures.

I would say to a student: "Give it a go! You can just book a introductory session as a taster and everything is informal and relaxed."

Different differentiation.

It’s likely that you’ll be used to differentiating methods of face-to-face support already, based on the student’s situation whilst at university. Now, you’ll need to differentiate in other ways too: your student may have moved out of university accommodation and back home, so they may be sharing laptops and workspace with family members. Or, they may have stayed in a houseshare but now be living there alone, so be faced with a different set of challenges than previously. You’ll need to take the time to speak to your student and understand their new situation, so you can provide the most tailored support possible.

For example, if a student now can’t access a printer and you usually provide them with printed documents to complete, is there an alternative you can offer? If a student is accessing their work on a phone screen rather than a computer, how can you present information to best suit this?

Set targets and celebrate achievements.

It can be difficult for students and support workers alike to stay motivated to complete work when stuck within the same four walls all day. With this in mind, it is more important than ever to set your students realistic expectations and targets, and celebrate their achievements. 

Work smart and set your students ongoing targets, such as putting into practice techniques you teach them and reporting back to you the next day. It can also be helpful to set yourself some small targets too, such as scheduling in support sessions as early as you can, and reaching out to your student(s) every other day to check in on their progress.

This will also allow you and your student(s) to reflect on work and see how much has been completed, so you can celebrate achievements. This can be fantastic for boosting everyone’s mental wellbeing! This will also help you tailor your support sessions even more.

Some benefits of providing support remotely are:

  • You can book in sessions from your own home 
  • You can book in sessions flexibly around your schedule and commitments
  • If you would like to pick up more sessions and support additional students across the country, you can do this easily
  • The ability to document and screen share makes support easier and more effective

If you are looking to get support set up with your students remotely, please email us on studentsupport@randstad.co.uk. Please also reach out to us if you have any feedback on providing virtual support or would like any further advice.