HEPPP Student Retention & Engagement Project in BJBS

The HEPPP Student Retention & Engagement project aim is to improve retention and engagement of commencing students. The project began in March 2019 & significant data has now been collected in both sessions. While that data is being analysed at this very moment, here’s an update of what’s been happening in 201960.

Pre-session activities: selection of subjects & preparation

In 201960 24 BJBS subjects with 70 offerings were selected on the basis of having a large number of low SES, commencing, domestic, undergraduate students, with the majority of subjects being part of the project in 201930. Prior to session starting we worked with subject coordinators to ensure each subject had a:

  • welcoming i2 site to ensure engagement from the first point of contact; and
  • pre-census early assessment item (EAI) to be used as an indicator of engagement.

Pre-Census activities: Identifying potentially disengaged students

Once session started, we identified potentially disengaged students at two key points prior to census for the purpose of pro-actively contacting those students in their first 4 weeks of study.

Contact point 1: End of week 2

ASSIST was used to identify 997 students (across the 3 Faculties) who had not accessed I2 sites by the end of week 2. Students were contacted via email with direct links to assistance and an option for a callback. SCs also had the option to make contact with students, with support available.

Contact point 2: Weeks 3 or 4

Following submission of the EAI, data for each subject & offering was accessed via ASSIST and I2 Grade Centres, merged and cross-checked with other learning analytics. This allowed us to compile an accurate list of students who may be at risk. In each case, a final list of students was sent to each SC for confirmation. Confirmed lists of students were then provided to the Outreach Call Centre (OCC). Contact with the identified students involved three steps:

  1. Pre-call SMS with the option to book a time or call back.
  2. Telephone contact at the nominated time or on the day the SMS was sent.
  3. If no answer, follow up email sent at the end of that same day.

272 students in BJBS were identified and contacted, with time to take action before Census.

The OCC approached the calls as ‘check-ins’ with students, with a focus on appropriate guidance and appropriate help for student need.  The HEPPP team worked closely with DSS and in particular Communications and the OCC to manage this process.

What have we learnt so far?

  • Greater lead-in time in 201960, learning from 201930 and collaboration with the Divisions allowed for an increasingly streamlined and supported process.
  • Having a purposeful and meaningful early assessment item that could be tracked using analytics provided an accessible and accurate indicator of engagement.
  • Identification at contact point 2 is an intensive, manual process, due to different submission methods & ways of recording extensions & special consideration requests.
  • Effective use of Grade Centres and the use of Grade Centres to record extensions and special consideration requests created efficiencies in the process.
  • Blanket extensions to EAIs to within 3 days of, or beyond the Census date, were problematic due to impact on use of the EAI as an indicator.
  • Use of SMS, call bookings and phone back provided a range of options and supported a student-centred strategy.
  • OCC staff indicated that students generally appreciated the pre-census check in.
The HEPPP retention process

Post Census activity

We will soon be selecting our subjects for 201990. In the meantime we’re also working on the following activities.

Tracking student engagement beyond Census: in 201960 we’re focusing on 8 BJBS subjects where there is a history of students progressively disengaging. In these subjects students who do not submit subsequent assessment tasks will be contacted. Contact will have 2 purposes:

  1. to identify reasons for non-submission or disengagement
  2. to provide guidance where necessary and appropriate

Trialling assessment resources: we will be trialling additional resources for assessment that make the sometimes complex expectations of assessment tasks explicit to commencing students. A template has been developed and successfully trialled in FoS for this purpose.

Engaging the student voice: to inform our understanding of student engagement, we’re recruiting a student workforce to review a selection of HEPPP subjects.

Developing resources: to provide professional learning related to engagement, resources are being progressively created to inform the development of I2 sites, landing pages and EAIs.

Thank you for your contribution to the project so far. Please don’t hesitate to contact Donna Mathewson Mitchell (dmmitchell@csu.edu.au) with any questions.