Opportunity through online learning: Improving student access, participation and success in higher education

Year: 2017

Author: Stone, Cathy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Online learning has become a well-recognised part of the broader landscape of higher education. It is also proving to have a critical place in widening access and equity within this landscape. Increasing numbers of students from backgrounds historically under-represented at university are taking the opportunity to begin undergraduate study online, including through open-entry and alternative-entry pathways (Stone, O'Shea, May, Delahunty & Partington, 2016). However, retention in online undergraduate programs has been shown to be at least 20% lower than in face-to-face programs (Greenland & Moore, 2014) with an Australian Government Department of Education and Training report (DET, 2017) finding that only 46.6% of fully external, online students, compared with 76.6% of on-campus, face-to-face students, completed their undergraduate degrees over a 9-year period.
This session presents the findings from a national research project funded by the Australian Government DET under the 2016 National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) Equity Fellows Program, in which 151 members of staff involved in online education were interviewed, across 15 Australian higher education institutions and the Open University UK. The interviews investigated the types of practices, supports and retention strategies being developed and implemented within these institutions, by academic and professional staff, with the aim of improving student retention and academic success. Together with evidence from the international literature, the research findings have informed a set of National Guidelines for Australian institutions for improving student outcomes in online learning.
The full report and National Guidelines can be accessed at: https://www.ncsehe.edu.au/publications/opportunity-online-learning-improving-student-access-participation-success-higher-education/
The implications for institutional practice from both the key findings and the National Guidelines will be discussed and explored during this session. Participants will be encouraged to reflect upon their own experiences and practices within online education, the extent to which these findings resonate with their experiences and how the guidelines could be applied within their institution.