Volunteering as an online student: More than handing out flyers and shaking a coin tin

Student Life


Clare is studying a Masters of Teaching (Primary) with Swinburne Online (SOL) and as a SOL Mentor, volunteers her time to support other students in adjusting to online study and help them feel connected to the SOL community.

In doing so, she’s been able to log her volunteering hours as a Student Life Volunteer and gain valuable experience, meet like-minded people and access free accredited training through the Rewards and Recognition program.

Check out her story below.

How long have you been a Student Life volunteer?
I’ve been volunteering with Student Life for just over a year now. I started once I was qualified to become a SOL Student Mentor, as this was a program I’d been looking forward to joining since I first heard about it.

Why did you choose to become a volunteer?
I chose to become a SOL Student Mentor (and a Student Life Volunteer) because I remembered the feelings of isolation and unsureness that I struggled with at the start of my own online degree. I wanted to assist other students to adjust more easily to online study, and to feel that they are not alone in this process. It is particularly important for me to set up a group messenger chat each teaching period (TP), so that my mentees have an opportunity to chat amongst themselves and support one another, in addition to the one-on-one support I provide. I believe that this creates a culture of support and community, easing the transition to (individual, potentially isolating) online study.

What has been some of the most valuable skills and experience you’ve had the opportunity to gain during your time volunteering?
Drawing on my own experiences to consider how I can best help my students, and listening empathetically to their stories and struggles, have been rewarding and valuable experiences. Helping others is intrinsically rewarding for me, but I also experience extrinsic rewards in the form of opportunities to develop employability skills. As a pre-service teacher, I am gaining valuable experience in cultivating supportive relationships with students, active and empathetic listening, referring students to other support services, and drawing on the experience and advice of my SOL Mentor peers. All of these skills are crucial to be a supportive and caring primary school teacher.

What has the volunteering experience been like as an online student?
One of the key reasons I wanted to begin volunteering, aside from giving back, was to develop a sense of community and connection with my peers. This can be difficult as an online student, without the abilities for connection offered by attending on-campus lectures, tutes and social experiences. Connecting and communicating with my mentees allows me feel part of the SOL online community, which makes the individual nature of online study seem far less isolating.

What has been your favourite experience as a volunteer so far?
I think the most rewarding experience for me each TP is beginning a group messenger chat for all of my mentees to chat and connect. When they start supporting one another, it definitely gives me chills of pride that I have helped to foster these supportive relationships, which will help my mentees to experience a successful first TP. This then makes them more likely to stick with their degree, which is a fantastic pay-off for my mentoring efforts!

What would you say to someone who is thinking of volunteering for the Student Life Volunteering Program?
Do it! Whether you are on-campus or online, volunteering allows you to connect with like-minded students, expand your social networks, gain vital employability skills, and experience the satisfaction of helping others.

Anything you'd like to add?
Have fun and enjoy your volunteering experiences!

Think this might be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for? Join the Student Life volunteering crew and meet new people, gain skills and experience and most importantly, make a difference! Sign up today at swi.nu/volunteer

If you’re a Swinburne Online student, you can apply to be a SOL Mentor and log your hours as a Student Life volunteer to gain access to milestone rewards and a variety of free accredited training through the Rewards and Recognition Program. Apply to become a SOL Mentor at XXX.