Initiative updates

Student and Retention Success Project

Project Coordinator, Kim Ferguson, attended the Students First: Confidence, satisfaction and outcomes, Studiosity Symposium – 25th and 26th July. 2019.

The two day symposium presented a number of engaging and innovative speakers from several universities, as well as representatives from Studiosity.  Much of the data initially presented mirrored what we already know about the cohorts of students who struggle at tertiary education being; low SES, on-line and mature age students, first in family, and indigenous and regional students. Conversations then moved into the realm of teaching and learning issues focused in student satisfactions and success.

Professor Jessica Vanderlelie, PVC for Student Success, spoke of La Trobe’s journey in developing effective student retention and success initiatives.  Their research identified that 9% of students consider leaving university due to administrative issues.  La Trobe gathered what they described as “robust feedback from students at all campuses”, and discovered that students wanted to work at the ground roots and contribute to working and building student retention and success initiatives.  The outcomes were a much clearer understanding of their student’s needs and a stronger student ownership and engagement in their own commitment to success.

Professor Patrick McGorry, University of Melbourne, spoke about the opportunity and waste of human potential in the context of managing mental health.  Identifying that mental illness is problematically high in first world countries, he drew attention to the significant amounts of GDP spent on mental health.  Recognising that our system of health care is not set up for teenagers and young adults, and drawing on how technology influences personal identity and independence highlights the need to ensure that appropriate mental health support is available to students, as well as to staff.

Professor McGorry acknowledged that universities are still wary about taking on such responsibilities and are concerned about their duty of care to students, suggesting we all review the figure in ‘Model of an integrated system of student mental health care’, (Duffy et al., Lancet Psychiatry, July 16 2019).  A sobering statistic he closed on was the fact that 27 international students in Australia have taken their own lives in the past 6 years.

Dr Jared Cooney Horvath, an educational neuroscientist (with a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience and a MEd in Mind, Brain & Education from Harvard) was a magnetic speaker who engaged us in a captivating discussion regarding the process of learning and the reality of transferring skills developed in study into the work place.  An interesting topic tied in with developing student’s skills to be work ready.

The focus of putting students first was the primary theme of the symposium, with the question raised, “Do we actually put student’s needs first, and should we?”  How do we get a deeper understanding of student needs and wants and what is our institutional capability to measure and respond to those needs.  Dylan Beasley from deafConnectEd presented on the topic of language and access to (higher) education from a deaf perspective, and how universities need to be proactive in equity and support.  The allocation of resources to deliver improved student outcomes was the perfect opportunity for Studiosity to present their data from their Plagiarism Impact Research Project (Devlin, McKay, Yang, Studiosity, 2018) which found:

  • 84% of students felt their academic skills had improved after using the Studiosity service,
  • 80% of users felt more certain and confident in their approach to their written work, and
  • 80% of Studiosity users felt more confident about their ability to avoid plagiarising.

Michael Larsen, Studiosity CEO and Adam McNeil, Studiosity Chief Tech Officer, previewed the new technology developments in 2020 and discussed the increased demand for student support in study.  A positive spruiking if their services.  The symposium gave a new perspective on the best practices in developing the student experience, a new understanding on the physical process of learning, and a projection of service delivery in a digital future.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Kim Ferguson.