Peer academic coaches: A front line service of the UOW Learning Coop

Ms Melissa Zaccagnini1, Ms Melissa Stephen1

1University Of Wollongong, Australia

UOW Learning Coop is a strategic partnership formed by the diverse academic support providers within the DVC (A) Portfolio at the University of Wollongong to deliver their services in a more cohesive manner, in an accessible co located space. The Peer Academic Coaches (PACs) role was created as a “front of house” for this service. The PACs are a team of trained, senior students who provide one-to-one peer support on a range of academic topics, and who work collaboratively with students to develop their independent learning skills, in order to discover solutions to the everyday challenges they face while studying at UOW. These students play a vital triage role for staff services, supporting students directly to build their academic confidence and use of available online resources before referring them to key UOW staff. In the first semester of 2017, PACs were available for 50 hours of service per week across 5 onshore UOW campuses. The team of 19 PACs represent all five Faculties. One of the key factors in the success of the PAC service has been the development of a comprehensive responsible referrals training package, ensuring that the PAC team are able to direct students to key institutional resources. This package has now been shared with a number of other UOW peer based programs to encourage comprehensive knowledge of and communication about services that are integral to students. This presentation will share an overview of the development of the PAC role at UOW since 2015, the responsible referrals package and strategies for ensuring the PACs continuously develop their ability to communicate key information to the students they serve.


Melissa Zaccagnini provides leadership for peer learning services, within Learning, Teaching & Curriculum at the University of Wollongong. This team includes 130 peer leaders and engages over 4000 students per year across 8 campuses. With over 10 years’ of experience in the design, implementation, management and evaluation of peer led programs (academic, cultural, social and wellbeing),  Melissa has great enthusiasm for the value of peer programs in higher education,  especially advocating for the strategic inclusion of peer to peer opportunities to complement and enhance traditional teaching and learning environments and support student transition and success.

As Head of the National Centre for PASS and an International Certified Trainer, Melissa has had the privilege of delivering accredited PASS Supervisor training to hundreds of colleagues from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Fiji, Singapore and China. The international success of the PASS model has inspired Melissa to identify key transferable elements which can be utilised to continuously evolve and operationalise peer based offerings to meet institutional and student needs. Melissa enjoys working collaboratively with colleagues to support innovation and sharing of best practice around peer programs, both at UOW and across the Australasia region/ Internationally.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education.

For more information, please visit ANZSSA website by


ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

For more information, please visit the ISANA website at

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.