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An end to placement poverty? Students are left doubtful.

The government announces payments for placements, but students feel they are missing the mark. ...

In recent news, the federal government announced that students undergoing teaching, nursing, and social work placements may be eligible for weekly payments by July 2025. 

The government calculated that students could receive up to $319.50 a week.  

While the government expects the change to help, students say it’s not enough to ease the economic challenges they’re currently facing. 

What is placement poverty, and who does it impact? 

“Placement poverty” is a term first coined by Social Work students in April 2024, in reaction to the hardships of struggling financially whilst trying to maintain their placement experience. 

Students say the time spent on placements without income has pushed them close to or below the poverty line, which is defined as half the median household income, according to Poverty and Inequality Australia. As of 2022, it’s $489 a week for a single adult, and $1,027 a week for a couple with two children, as stated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). 

Jasmine Taylor is a learning support officer and a teaching student at Western Sydney University. Even after taking an additional job in retail and receiving youth allowance entitlements, Jasmine says she is struggling to stay afloat: 

 “I was, up until a few weeks ago, working two jobs and accessing Centrelink and that still was barely covering my essentials…Everything is so expensive,” Jasmine said.  

Jasmine says the cost of living makes unpaid placements ‘impossible’ || Image by Ruby Ritchie

Like Jasmine, anyone studying teaching, social work or nursing must complete placements as a part of their qualifications. However, these placements are unpaid and span between 16-26 weeks.  

The $319.50 a week is equivalent to the single Austudy weekly rate. The payment will be means tested and available from July 1, 2025.   

 The government has stated that 68,000 higher education students and 5,000 VET students would be entitled to the payment, but it is only available to teaching, nursing and social work students.  

“This will give people who have signed up to do some of the most important jobs in this country a bit of extra help to get the qualifications they need…This is practical support for practical training,” said Federal Minister for Education, Jason Clare, in a media release.  

While she has yet to start her placement, Jasmine feels the payment amount is too little and believes that the Austudy entitlement is not a fair benchmark.  

“Yes, money is money, and a step forward is good. But this isn’t something that students should be subjected to, in terms of using their time, energy and resources to supplement the shortages they have in those industries,” Jasmine said.  

Students say government should increase payments to minimum wage:

Sabrine Yassine, the Welfare Officer of the National Union of Students (NUS), said whilst the union welcomes the payment as a significant step, the federal government should go further.  

“It’s such a great first move… government is listening to students in terms of what they want… it alleviates about 10 to 20 hours for students, that’s 10 to 20 hours they don’t need to work on a part time job,” Sabrine said.  

Sabrine says the government has taken a good first step || Image: Sabrine Yassine

When broken down, the proposed payment will total $8 an hour. The NUS urged the federal government to increase the payment to the national minimum wage, being $23.23 per hour or $882.80 per 38-hour week.  

“We have three clear asks…amend the Fair Work Act to make unpaid placements illegal, increase the payments to at least minimum wage, and pay all students who must undertake mandatory placements,” added Sabrine. 

Why can’t every student access this? 

One critique the government has faced is that medical, engineering, and psychology students won’t be entitled to the payments.  

In addition, the entitlement can only be accessed by domestic students, as Centrelink is only accessible to Australian citizens and permanent residents.  

“All students should be paid. All unpaid work should be illegal…I think international students are doing the same amount of work and unpaid hours as domestic students,” Sabrine said.  

The next steps:

The government has not yet revealed how they will conduct the means test for this payment but has said students can access the payment alongside other entitlements.  

Jasmine remains sceptical of the government’s payments but is hopeful for change.  

“I think the generation going into all of these industries is very aware of what they deserve, their rights, and what isn’t okay to experience. Unpaid placements are absolutely not okay,” Jasmine said.  

The payment to help ease placement poverty will not come into the hands of students until 2025, however, and there is hope that the government broadens the list of eligible courses that qualify, so many more in need can receive assistance.  

When Education Minister, Jason Clare, was asked by Radio National on whether more courses will be added, he neither confirmed nor denied:  

“That’s something we’d have to look at down the track.” 

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How to prepare for your online exams

It’s October, which means two things are fast approaching: exams and semester break. I’ll wager you’re only excited about one....
It’s October, which means two things are fast approaching: exams and semester break. I’ll wager you’re only excited about one of them. With Zoom classes creating a new virtual learning space for students amid COVID-19, Sarah Cupitt explains what you need to know to prepare for your online exams.

 

 

Photo by Burst on Unsplash

Planning, revision and preparation

Online exams are likely to be a new model of assessment for you here are some tips to help you to plan successfully, revise and prepare.

  1. Show up for your exam

  • Don’t accidentally be that person who overslept.
  • If you don’t sign-in on time, you could be locked out altogether.
  • Know what time your exams are (or alternately, how long you have to take them) and be at your laptop or computer, ready to pounce.
  1. Prepare your device

  • You can’t afford any interruptions to your power, internet connection, or device functionality.
  • Make sure you’ve tested the link and software you’ll need for the exam – and download all updates before the day of your test.
  • Anticipate technical problems – mainly WiFi – if you get cut off, you might not be able to finish your exam.
  • TIP: leave your device plugged into an outlet while you take the exam, so you don’t have to worry about the battery dying.
  1. Don’t be fooled – It’s not an open book exam

  • A real person supervises your exams during and after the test.
  • “Proctoring” is another word for exam supervision.
  • Western Sydney University is working with ProctorU to provide this service to students for 2020 exams.
  • There are two ways your exam may take place:  Live+ means a real person will supervise your exam in real-time via your webcam and  Review+  means you and your screen will be recorded and reviewed by Proctor U after the exam session.
  1. Don’t try collaborative cheating

  • It’s academic misconduct, ethically wrong – and you’ll get caught.
  • Don’t sit an exam with your classmate next to you.
  • Don’t use post-it notes on your device, and don’t even think about the copy and paste function.
  1. The day of your exam

  • Carve out a quiet test-taking spot with minimal distractions.
  • Let your roommates or family know not to interrupt you during that time.
  • Make sure to turn off all notifications from your phone, email, and elsewhere (or set them to silent).
  • Be aware of any potential time limits – keep your eye on the clock.
  • Once logged in, take a moment to relax and get focused.
  1. Don’t forget to submit

  • Don’t forget to click the “Submit” button at the end.
  • Go back through your exam and review your work.
  • If something goes wrong, take screenshots and notify your instructor right away.
  1. Request feedback

  • Ask your academic or unit coordinator for feedback.
  • The process isn’t over just because you’ve received a letter grade.
  • Your goal should be to understand why you received the result that you did and to find out what you could have done better.

Visit the Library Study Smart Website for more exam study tips and guidance.

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Simple tips for a safer workspace

As everything moves online, having a safe environment to study and work is now important than ever. ...

With the Covid-19 quarantine situation that we are currently facing, there is an increase in demand for working online. For students, this means our entire studying has been transferred online, which means more time spent in front of a computer and more time using technology. It is becoming more important to have a safe environment to study and work without straining yourself, physically and mentally.

There is much information online about how to achieve an ergonomical setup at your workplace, but it’s hard for some people to achieve, especially in times like these, where you may not already have the space or be able to purchase certain items in order to create the ideal setup.

Sreya Sreenath, student at WSU Campbelltown campus, said that she felt it was important to have a safe setup when working from home. She said, “Since my studies are so important to me, I want to be working in an environment where I can be safe so I can work to the best of my ability.” She also expressed the concern that many other students during this time may also be facing. “I’m very lucky that I have a proper setup at home, but I can imagine how mentally and physically exhausting it’ll be for those who don’t.”

The WSU campus libraries are currently still open for those who need a study space. However, for those who cannot travel there are a few basic ways to achieve a safer space to work.

For one, make sure you are working at a desk. Working at your bed or on the couch can be very bad for your posture as you will often be hunched over. Working at any sort of table or desk with a chair that will support your back will prevent muscle soreness, as well as maintaining your posture.

Also, ensure that you are working in well-lit room, as this will reduce eye strains from the light emitted from computer screens, which could also lead to headaches that might affect your studies. Most technologies these days have night modes, which reduce the blue light emitted by your technologies and can reduce eye strains. If your technology does not have this setting, there are many apps that provide the same service, as well as glasses that you can buy that have blue light filters.

Additionally, It is always good to take breaks. Sometimes you may be rushing to finish an assignment or quiz, however, if you feel uncomfortable, you should take a break. Stand up and stretch, even if it’s for thirty seconds, make sure you aren’t seated in the same position for too long.

It is a stressful time, but it’s never a good idea to push yourself. If you have more time, make sure you are taking breaks from work. Walk around the house and stretch, or grab a bite to eat. Reduce your stress from by even just maybe watching an episode of your Netflix show. Make sure you aren’t overstressing yourself. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

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Ten ways to organise your study

Try these ten tips to help you manage your assessments and conquer your degree....
Perhaps last semester you found yourself stressing at the last minute or double-booking yourself. It may be time to organise your study. These following ten tips will help you manage your assessments and conquer your degree. Story by Bianca Russom.
  1. Create a custom timetable

Now, this may sound silly since Allocate+ provides you with a timetable at the start of each semester. However, by making your own timetable, you can customise it as you wish. My suggestions include colour coding by unit rather than class type, including individual class dates based off the schedule of activities in the learning guide, and removing those classes you may only have once or twice a semester from the timetable itself and including them as a note at the bottom of the page instead.

  1. Create an assessment schedule

Before the start of semester, most learning guides will have been released on Blackboard. Use this to your advantage and create a list (or calendar) of all the individual assessments that you have due. By writing them all out and ordering them chronologically, you can see if all your assessments are due at once or if they are spread out over semester (which, face it, never happens). I recommend including the due day, date, time, task name, associated unit and method of submission, whether it’s by Turnitin or hardcopy. The more specific you are, the more you will thank yourself later.

  1. Print out the marking rubric and criteria

Save yourself the hassle of having yet another tab open on your internet browser and print out any information regarding the completion of an assessment. By having a physical copy of this, you can read over it, highlight it and scribble notes all over it, no excuses. The same principle applies for other important documents such as readings and journal articles. Be sure to print double sided and recycle them after the assessment has been handed in.

  1. Optimise your desk setup

There is nothing more frustrating than having an annoying study setup. It is well worth spending some time working out what you need to be more productive. Work out what works well for you. Perhaps this means buying a larger desk or a corkboard to stick notes to. I found my productivity improved when I purchased a larger corner desk, a wireless mouse and keyboard for my laptop and had easy access to a printer at home. Either way, this does not have to be an expensive task. Gumtree and garage sales are a great place to pick up desks and office furniture for a good price (and often they can be collected pre-assembled).

  1. Colour code

For those of us who enjoy organising, this will be a no brainer, but there are plenty of people who dread the sheer thought of having to sort through documents. Fear no more! Colour coding is a great way to keep on top of things and it’s super easy, with stationary in every colour readily available. Try using different coloured pens and highlighters when you take notes. I tend to use red pen to write down anything relating to assessments, black pen to write down standard notes and blue pen for any definitions or quotes. By developing your own system, you will easily be able to skim through your notes come exam time.

  1. Avoid electronic documents and planners

Try ditching the laptop in the lecture theatre and swap it out for a book, yes, that’s right, actual. By writing down notes, you will be able to keep your hand in tip top writing shape (so it does not hurt in the final exam) but it also helps you remember the content. Not to mention, it limits your ability to open a new tab and get distracted during class time. Similarly, try using a physical calendar, whether it be a desk planner, diary or a poster on the wall in your room. By having a calendar where you can see weeks in advance, you can better manage your time both in and out of class time. If for some reason you do need this information on you, you can just take a photo of it on your phone.

  1. Plan your day

If you’re like me, there is nothing more satisfying than crossing off a task on a to-do list. Planning your day, even if it’s just from deciding what time you’re going to wake up, can help you be more productive. Setting yourself a “working day” and assigning short breaks can help you develop a good study routine. For example, I know I work best early in the morning and I like to spend time with my family in the evening, so I start working at six in the morning and will finish at four o’clock in the afternoon, with regular breaks. I also like to pin point exactly which part of which assessments I will tackle. For example, in a day I may wish to complete the introduction of assessment X, find some resources for assessment Y and do the data analysis on assessment Z. Work out which times you are most productive and which times you want to relax to help you develop a routine (which includes a good amount of sleep).

  1. Try different study techniques

There are so many different ways to study and different methods work for different people. Writing notes may not work for you, so why not try something new? Try making mind maps or completing online quizzes (you can even make your own on websites like Sporcle). I like to pretend I am teaching someone else and record my voice teaching someone else and test my knowledge without any notes. Other ways to help yourself study include creating a song to remember content and recording yourself reading a speech or essay and listening to it on repeat whilst doing something else. The internet is just full of blogs and videos by students like you who have their own unique way of studying.

  1. Download teaching resources

This may sound weird, but I wish I knew it in my first semester of university: Once you complete a unit, you no longer have access to any of the content such as lecture slides, readings and practical manuals. At the end of each semester, download all the content and create a folder for that unit. You have just learnt all that stuff, you may as well keep it. You never know when you might want to look back on some old lecture notes to refresh your brain, or to help you complete an assessment in another unit.

  1. Do not throw out your work

There is always a unit you dislike and wish to have a celebratory bonfire using the notes from it, but do not throw out all that hard work. Store it away. At the end of each semester, sort through all your papers and organise them by unit. Fill binder folders with this material. Similarly, don’t delete that YouTube playlist that was full of videos you watched to help you understand a concept. Keep it all.

If you put in a good amount of effort, you should have created work and notes you are proud of and can look back on in the future. After all, it comprises all the content you learnt during your degree.