My experience working as a peer academic coach

This semester, during the last year of my five-year Business Management Marketing Major degree, I have had the pleasure of working on campus as a peer academic coach (PAC) within the Academic Success Centre (ASC) at the Ted Rogers School of Management (TRSM). I recently returned to this role after working as a Strategies for Success facilitator and peer academic coach in my second year. I loved helping students with their academic success in the past, and with the switch to online school being a worry for many students I thought it would be a great time to return.

 

What is a PAC?

 

A Peer Academic Coach is an upper-year student who helps students with learning strategies, other academic skills and campus referrals. All PACs at the ASC are TRSM students, and only TRSM students can utilize the ASC resources. However, all students on campus at Ryerson can utilize learning supports from Student Learning Support (SLS), which has PACs from across campus. At the ASC, students can go over specific strategies and skills with a PAC individually by booking an appointment and/or in a group setting by attending one of the many Train 2 Learn workshops. PACs also lead Virtual Study Halls, which are two-hour study sessions where students work individually, but they get to share their study goals as a group to help with their motivation. Beyond this, PACs lead the Guided Academic Planning Program (GAPP) learning pods bi-weekly throughout the semester, which are group learning strategy sessions that are required for TRSM students on probation. All programming takes place over Zoom this academic year due to the pandemic.

 

What does a typical shift look like?

The ASC builds the PAC shift schedule based on the PACs class availability as the ASC understands that students’ academics come first. This semester I work three shifts which are between three to four hours each, and we have one team meeting a week with at least one full-time ASC staff and the other PACs. This weekly meeting has allowed me to get to know my coworkers better in the virtual setting as we do icebreaker activities or games such as Scattergories. It has also been a great time to go over strategies for how we can help students reach their best academic potential. One week we also had the opportunity to learn more about Orange Shirt Day by attending a virtual Ryerson event.

Aside from the weekly meeting, each of my shifts I usually have either two individual appointments or two GAPP learning pods through Zoom or Google Meets. I often have at least one hour where I am not in a scheduled appointment during my shift. During this time, I join an internal PAC Google Meets room where my boss can easily contact me, and I can easily connect with the other PACs on shift who do not have appointments, T2L sessions or Virtual Study Halls currently. While in this virtual room, I work on notes from my appointments and learning pods, and I perform email correspondence from the ASC email.

 

What else do I do on shift if I have no appointments?

If PACs have empty time blocks while on shift or students don’t show up for their appointments, we have extra tasks that we can work on during this time. My favourite one has been reading the book “Teach Yourself How to Learn: Strategies You Can Use to Ace Any Course at Any Level” by Saundra Yancy McGuire. All Ryerson students have access to the e-book as part of the One Book One Campus initiative, and as a PAC I was able to receive a physical copy by mail. The book goes over a variety of study skills and learning strategies that we can utilize to help students, but I am also able to learn for my own academic success as well. We also perform reflections on each of the chapters as a team during our weekly meetings. Beyond this, we have read and watched other virtual content about learning strategies, accessibility and more. Lastly, PACs have the opportunity to write blogs about learning strategies that are posted to the This is TRSM blog! Stay tuned to the website for a blog I wrote about motivation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

What is my favourite learning strategy?

Four Month Calendar

TRSM ASC four-month calendar

I think time management is extremely important for students to succeed academically, and it’s a huge reason why I have had time to volunteer and work while being a full-time student. I really recommend that every student utilizes a four-month calendar to plan ahead for school deadlines, a seven-day planner to strategize their weekly study plan and a dump & sift to-do list to manage their daily tasks. This may sound like a lot of work, but once you develop a habit of using these tools you will notice the difference they can make.

How can you get a job at the ASC?

If you’re interested in becoming a PAC, I recommend staying focused on your studies and trying out the ASC services during your first year. In your second year (and so on) you can apply for a job as a PAC through the Ryerson Career Centre. ASC employers look at both students’ experience and GPA when hiring PACs. Students who have a knack for a particular course can also apply to be tutors under the ASC. If you’re interested in being a PAC or Tutor, but you’re not a TRSM student, all upper-year students can apply to positions under SLS.

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