The student coach is a present from us to all new students
Student coaches already existed, but the idea of giving each new first-year student a coach is quite new and partly a result of lessons learned in corona times. Meanwhile, more than 800 students are ready as coaches to give the new first-year students a good start in September.
The Newsroom spoke with Anneke Postma, who led the operation to recruit at short notice 800 higher-year students who are prepared to commit themselves as coaches for the new first-year students.
Did you expect to succeed in recruiting 800 coaches?
‘I was hoping to succeed, of course, but I hadn't expected us to cross the 800 mark so soon. I am very happy about that and also a little relieved.’
What's the idea behind this major operation?
‘At Windesheim, we have had student coaches for some time now. Before starting with us, you could register for a student coach via the website. And if the need arose during your first year, you could apply and be assigned a student who had followed a special training course. In our project group, we had long believed that every student who aspired to become a student coach should be able to do so and that every student should be able to receive such a coach. The Executive Board had heard about this and the corona crisis strengthened their interest in this idea. They saw an opportunity to use the lessons learned from the crisis and to offer every first-year student a student coach. Partly due to the experiences gained in corona times we now know even better how important it is for starting students to feel comfortable and at home at school.’
Why choose a student coach?
‘Peer coaching has proven to be an effective way to feel comfortable and get your studies on track. Onboarding programmes, which are very popular these days, assume that it’s important that you follow and coach people properly in their new job or at their new school for the first 100 days. We want every new student to feel at home at Windesheim right away. Feeling at home and bonding are incredibly important. If you feel lost, there is a good chance that your studies will not get off the ground because you are busy with all kinds of other things. That's why it's nice if you can turn to another student. The questions they have are diverse, from 'which vending machine offers the best coffee' to 'where do I park my bike'. But they can also be about things that we as lecturers or student counsellors overlook or take too much for granted. For a new student, these things are new and therefore important. That makes the student coach they can now turn to with these questions a present from us to all new first-year students.’
What requirements must a student coach meet?
‘Above all, they have to like what they do and they get a financial compensation for the hours they work. It won't make them rich, but it's good that they get something in return. I have the impression that the students have an inner drive to become coaches. For the students, I think it's very nice that they can earn some extra money doing something closely related to their studies and grow at the same time. Because, as a student coach, you also develop as a person who coaches others and takes responsibility for that. Moreover, we make sure they can do their job by providing online training in groups of four or eight. The training courses will start soon and our trainers and peer counsellors from the divisions will take care of the kick-off.’
How does a project like this get off the ground?
‘It' s really a team effort. As a project group, we've made a lot of contact with the study programmes, the student counsellors and the programme managers, to get everyone excited about this project. For each division, a coordinator from our project group communicated the idea to the individual study programmes. That was important because we wanted to arrange things per study programme. The idea is that a student has a greater feeling of closeness with a coach who follows the same study programme. We also enjoyed working with the Marketing and Communication department and owe a lot to their recruitment campaign. But the student counsellors were also vital to the recruitment, because they see the students up close and can nudge them and say: student coach, isn't that just your thing?’
Are there similar projects at other higher-education institutes?
‘Yes, I know that HAN and Saxion have set up similar projects with student coaches, in which students give guidance to other students. I don't know exactly how these projects work, but I believe it's quite new that every first-year student automatically gets a coach in September.’
What's the future of the student coach at Windesheim?
‘First, of course, we’re going to see how things work out this year. The idea behind student coaching is that new students have the most questions during the first three months, the first quarter. After that, there will probably be gradually less contact, although I can imagine that the contact will continue if there's a good click. After the first quarter, we will look at the results. If it turns out to be a good system that catches on, that satisfies a need and that brings us closer to the student, then we will certainly look into the possibility of repeating it.’
Mees, Janna and Mirjam have signed up as student coaches
Mees: 'I think it would be great to share my experiences of the first year with the next first-year students. And if there’s also a fee involved, that is of course a great bonus. I noticed that many students stop their studies quite soon. Maybe a student coach could help reduce this, especially since we are living in such strange times.’
Janna: 'I am very enthusiastic about studying and would like to pass that enthusiasm on to other students. I am also good at planning and hope I can help first-year students get off to a good start with their studies!’
Mirjam: 'When you start a new study programme, there's a lot to deal with. It's handy to have someone who can answer your questions. I also hope to learn from this, possibly from the peer-review sessions as well. I had a nice learning team that helped me a lot. That's also what I want to promote: creating your own network of study buddies.’