The Open Polytechnic Learning Centre provides students with a wide range of learning support, advice and resources. It is this support, and that of his lecturers, which has made all the difference for Cameron Wendelken in his study journey.
“I felt resentment throughout school; I was told by my teachers that I was thick and lazy. I went to every remedial reading class available, but I was teased for being a dummy,” says Cameron.
“I could beat every teacher in a game of chess, but I felt like I was a dumb guy, doomed to do manual tasks.”
Cameron, who is dyslexic, didn’t consider it possible for him to be able to do a degree, until technology became available that could support him in his study.
With the right tools, the Open Polytechnic Bachelor of Social Work student has excelled with a little help from the Learning Centre. This help has included supplying printed course materials in a format compatible with a screen reader and arranging for the services of a reader/ writer to be made available for Cameron.
“I have a computer system that I can talk to that writes for me. Basically this made it possible for me to do it in the first place.”
It was a discussion with Diana Jackson, Cameron’s reader/ writer and mentor that helped him uncover what he was passionate about and what he really wanted to do with his life.
“My first dream would have been a pilot, but I realised this might be unrealistic. I reflected on my own life and past experiences and realised that I wanted to do something to help others. I started doing a psychology degree and then changed to social work, I believe that being a social worker would be more hands on and serve people best,” Cameron explains.
“I find I am the guy people come and speak to when something has gone wrong and they need someone to listen to them. Studying social work just seemed like a natural progression.”
With four children and a demanding job, Christchurch-based Cameron says that studying by distance through the Open Polytechnic was the only way he could bend his study hours to fit in with the rest of his life.
“With my dyslexia, I find I am often listening but not absorbing all the information. I work much better when I can go through information in short bursts. For me going to a lecture would not be ideal. Open Polytechnic has given me flexibility and a style of learning that opened the door to getting a tertiary qualification. I also think that if I was in a mainstream university, having to speak to a computer might disturb others,” he says.
Cameron, who says he has been surprised by his academic success so far, says he believes his adult life experience has gone a long way in contributing to his understanding of social work theory and practice.
“The marks I have achieved shocked me more than anybody. I always thought I would never be able to do it. One of the very first papers I did was really the first writing I had ever done. I handed in my paper and when the lecturer sent back really great feedback, it came as a pleasant surprise,” he says.
“It definitely did give me some confidence but I still feel a bit like a fish out of water at times.”
Although he still finds his studies challenging at times, Cameron says the help he receives from the learning centre has made the journey more manageable.
“It just surprised me how willing they were to do their best to help me. They are awesome, they go above and beyond.”
The Learning Centre aims to enhance student engagement and success through the provision of tailored programmes and learning support to enable all Open Polytechnic students to achieve their full academic potential. Experienced learning advisers are therefore available to support students at all stages of their study.
In addition to one-on-one consultations with Learning Advisers (via phone, Skype or email), the Learning Centre provides online study resources and workshops, a student mentoring programme, a writing support service for first-time students, and services for students with disabilities.
The Learning Centre works Polytechnic-wide to support students and ensure equal opportunities and access for all students irrespective of age, gender, socio-economic background, ethnicity or physical ability.
Other student profiles
Gaining the Confidence to Succeed
- Bachelor of Applied Science (Psychology)
Wanting the confidence to challenge herself and a career to provide for her children, Ann Tapara began her journey with a Bachelor of Applied Science through distance learning at Open Polytechnic, laying the foundation to later gaining a Masters degree and becoming a fully registered clinical psychologist.
Fran shifts up a gear
From doubting her own abilities to launching a wellbeing programme for young women in Wellington - Open Polytechnic graduate Fran McEwen has come a long way since she dropped out of high school at the age of 16.