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Source: University of Otago

Thursday 3 September 2020 12:24pm
Members of Otago’s PASS team celebrate the award recognising their work during the COVID-19 lockdown. Photo credit: Sharron Bennett.
Otago’s Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) has been awarded the national Higher Education Heroes Award for its “exceptional quality of learning support care” during the country-wide COVID-19 lockdown.
In announcing the award, the Higher Education Research and Development Society Australasia (HERDSA) New Zealand branch said the committee was unanimous and enthusiastic in its decision to offer the award to PASS.
“In times of such uncertainty, the PASS team provided continuity and community and did so with a high level of commitment and creativity.”
PASS is an international peer-led supplementary instruction programme and has been offering free support to all students in first year papers for the past 12 years. It draws on the expertise of successful second or third-year students to coordinate interactive study sessions for selected papers. There are currently 44 members of the PASS team – 7 mentors and 37 facilitators – supporting about 2,000 students. The programme is overseen by Dr Tracy Rogers and Dr Rob Wass, from the Higher Education Development Centre.
Dr Rogers says she is thrilled the team members have been formally recognised for their “dedication and generosity”.
“Aside from providing critical academic skills development, the PASS facilitators provided valuable pastoral care and well-being support to their students during the COVID-19 lockdown. They accomplished this while also coping with their adjustment to online learning and the stresses of lockdown restrictions.”
“We are really pleased that the HERDSA New Zealand Committee provided this wonderful opportunity to officially acknowledge the unique role PASS facilitators performed in helping students cope during a difficult and stressful time.”
The team reacted swiftly to the Alert Level 4 announcement, she says.
“Undoubtedly, teaching online, via Zoom, was a new challenge or experience for many at the University of Otago, and elsewhere. However, unlike most teaching staff, the PASS facilitators and mentors were also juggling full-time study.
“The PASS team ran 60 online sessions per week for the remainder of the semester with not a single mishap nor cancelled session. Fortnightly training and debrief sessions were held with the team to ensure everyone was well supported.”
While the $1,000 prize money is appreciated, the recognition is especially important, Dr Rogers says.
“The remarkable support, talent, and care demonstrated by student-staff such as PASS facilitators is often overlooked outside student support and academic development units.
“The COVID-19 lockdown provided a unique opportunity for Rob and I to observe and truly appreciate the gift of kindness and generosity these young people provide to their peers.”
The team is still deciding how it will spend the $1,000 prize money, which HERDSA NZ asked to be spent locally to acknowledge the hardship local businesses have endured due to COVID-19.
For more information, please contact:
Lea JonesCommunications AdvisorUniversity of OtagoTel +64 3 479 4969Mob +64 21 279 4969Email lea.jones@otago.ac.nz

MIL OSI