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Student Success and Wellbeing Helping Online Students Succeed Dr Cathy Stone , Director, Student Success Eleonora Morelli , Academic Pathways and Transitions Coordinator Open Universities Australia. The OUA Community. Our students are a very diverse bunch!. Students by state.

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Student Success and Wellbeing

Helping Online Students Succeed

Dr Cathy Stone, Director, Student Success

Eleonora Morelli, Academic Pathways and Transitions Coordinator

Open Universities Australia

students by state
Students by state

VIC, NSW, QLD dominate, but all states and territories represented

how and what do our students study
How and what do our students study?
  • Wide range of units and courses:
    • Arts & humanities
    • Business
    • Education
    • Health
    • Information Technology (IT)
    • Law & justice
    • Science & engineering
  • Most common study pattern
  • Students enrol in individual undergraduate units and can track towards a full qualification.
  • FEE-Help
  • Commonwealth scheme which allows deferred payment of fees.
  • Over 70% of OUA students use FEE-HELP
oua students non traditional
OUA students “non-traditional”
  • Relatively few come straight from school to study with OUA
  • Mostly mature-age (>21), in paid employment and/or with parenting responsibilities
  • Around half of OUA students are first in family to come to university

OUA students have multiple responsibilities, often with little prior educational experience, combined with lack of time, money or both….

student success and wellbeing
Student Success and Wellbeing
  • Academic skills
  • Online tutorial support
  • Personal counselling
  • Career guidance
  • OUA Connect library program
  • Student Success Hub
  • Equity scholarships & subsidies
academic skills

Academic skills

Preparing for Study - PREP units

Four units focussed on academic skills to help students in their transition to tertiary studies

PREP01– Preparing for University Learning [10 weeks]PREP02 – Start for Success [self-paced, 26 weeks and Free]PREP03– Preparing for University Learning [Intensive, 3 weeks]PREP04 – Preparing for Academic Writing [6 weeks]

PREP 03 and 04 are FREE with OUA Pathways

impact of prep units

Impact of PREP units


Analysis of data has demonstrated that studying a PREP unit prior to or concurrently with an undergrad unit has a positive impact on students’ success, engagement and grades.

Student success: Students starting with a PEP unit 1.43 times more likely to pass their first undergrad unit

Student engagement: High level of engagement with LMS in PREP correlates with higher academic performance in subsequent undergrad unit

impact of prep units1

Impact of PREP units

Student grades: students starting with a PREP unit achieved significantly higher proportion of Ds and HDs in both their first and second unit after PREP

online tutorial support through smarthinking
Online tutorial support through Smarthinking
  • 24/7 online tutoring – 4 hours free support per unit studied
  • Essay assistance - students submit a draft of their writing (assignment) for feedback on structure
  • Submit a question: Students post a question for e-structors to respond to within 24 hours
  • Live tutoring in a wide range of subject areas, both in live chat or through a pre-scheduled session
single sign on to user friendly site
Single sign-on to user-friendly site

Tabsfor easy accessto account management

Breadcrumbsfor easy navigationthrough the availableservicesfromanyindividualwebpage

Sectionbuttonstoeasilyrecognise the services on offer

impact of online tutorial support smt

Impact of online tutorial support (SMT)

Since 2010 to the present time, data consistently shows significantly positive effect on student academic outcomes.

  • Pass rates are strikingly higher for SMT users in ALL study periods, with higher grades also being achieved.
personal counselling career guidance
Personal Counselling & Career Guidance
  • Appointment of full-time in-house Senior Wellbeing Counsellor in 2012; providing telephone and Skype counselling
  • Online Career & Employment web site – resume writing, interview skills, job seeking, self assessment tools
oua connect library program
OUA Connect Library Program
  • Developing partnerships with local libraries
  • Piloted in NSW, now extended into Victoria

Promoting to students resources/services that each library is offering. e.g. one-off information sessions; weekly drop-in sessions; computer classes etc.

    • Targeted communication to students within the postcode regions of participating libraries
    • OUA provides information/resources, training and ongoing contact for each library involved
    • 18 libraries in 10 local council regions now involved – and growing
oua connect feedback
OUA Connect Feedback

As a new online student I had found the research aspect of learning very overwhelming. My session today helped me understand how to look up and navigate around for my required articles and journals.

Great having face-to-face contact and talking with other students about their experiences.

I have found this helpful and encouraging especially the advisors and other students helps to keep you focus and aware there are other online students experiencing the same issues or have found ways to overcome these issues. Love the communication.

student success hub ssh what why

Student Success Hub (SSH) – what & why?

What is the SSH?

  • Outreach ‘student coaching’ service for new students
  • piloted through SP3 & 4 2012 – now expanded to all new students

Why was the SSH created?

  • help students succeed with their studies
  • reduce drop rate
  • improve pass rates
  • improve retention
ssh activities achievements

SSH – activities & achievements

What does the SSH do?

Making outbound calls to first unit students, coaches

  • establish students’ ambitions and goals
  • offer advice and support
  • provide information on appropriate services and tools

What has it achieved to date?

  • reduced drops
  • improved pass rates
  • improved retention
  • high level of student satisfaction
impact of student success hub pilot 2012

Impact of Student Success Hub Pilot 2012

Comparing 500 students who were ‘coached’ with 500 students in the control group, the following results were demonstrated:

  • Unit withdrawal rate (before census date) halved
  • Proportion of students passing their first unit increased by 18%
  • Student retention increased by 11% (returning within two study periods)
ssh outreach expanded to all new students

SSH outreach expanded to all new students

  • Contact Centre attempts phone contact with ALL new SP3 students within first 3 weeks
  • Students not contactable by phone are emailed
  • Team of 15 Student Advisors making initial L1 calls
  • 3 student coaches taking L2 referrals
  • Results continue to demonstrate increases in pass rates and student retention
  • Most recent results: 21.6% improvement in pass rate; retention boosted by 18ppts.

SSH coaching focusing on returning students

  • Student Coaches contact students who first enrolled in SP1 2013 and have since failed all units
  • Students enrolled in 2 or more units in the current Study Period are given precedence
  • 3 student coaches help students understand what the underlying issues are and provide useful suggestions on how to make changes in their study pattern
  • The pilot for this cohort is starting today for the approaching SP4 2013
feedback from students

Feedback from students

Comments provided in the SSH survey

Just someone listening makes all the difference.

After speaking with the coach today, I felt reassured that I would be able to continue on with my studies and that it is normal to feel some anxiety at the start of online study.

I was very impressed with the way coach listened to my concern and discussed solutions, also following through with an email of our discussion.

If it wasn't for Student Success hub I would have discontinued study.

equity scholarships
Equity Scholarships
  • ‘Can Do’ Scholarships help students with little or no university experience work towards a place in a Commonwealth-Supported Place (CSP) degree.
  • Offer up to 4 u/grad units and 2 PREP units free as pathway into CSP
  • Began only for low-income students – from 2014 being expanded across 6 equity groups:
    • Low socio-economic status
    • Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander
    • Disability
    • Rural and remote
    • Non English speaking background
    • Women in Engineering
travel subsidies
Travel subsidies
  • Financial assistance for low-income students to assist them to travel to exams and compulsory practica
  • Must be travelling up to 100 km or more
  • Restricted to undergraduate students
student engagement cycle
Student Engagement Cycle

Enabling units(preparing for university learning)

Career place

(guiding students to the right choice)


(assisting students afford education)

Enabling units(sharpening academic skills)


(online tutorial support)


(online and phone support)

Student Success Hub

(student coaching)

OUA Connect Library

(help with resources and feeling connected)


(helping students afford travelling to exams)

Special Circumstances and Resolutions

(assisting students in difficult unforseen circumstances)

New self-service enrolling system

(fully online)

My Study Centre


Social Media

(connecting with peers)


Student success does not arise by chance. It is the result of an intentional, structured, and proactive set of strategies that are coherent and systematic in nature and carefully aligned to the same goal.

(Tinto, 2009)