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UNSW Global's Foundation English Entry Course (FEEC) enables high school students to successfully experiment with their learning pathway into university

Driving engagement amongst young international learners incorporating best practices in educational learning pedagogies
Driving engagement amongst young international learners incorporating best practices in educational learning pedagogies

Successfully ran 10+

cohorts consisting of <18 students each class in 2020-2021

Generated 20,000+


A very high engagement rate of 168

comments per student

Delivered 10

week ELICOS course in which students acquire, develop and demonstrate Academic English skills
The UNSW Global FEEC program mainly consists of 17 to 21-year-olds towards the beginning of their pathway into university. The online format provides students an opportunity to successfully transition from high school to university, and experiment with their learning pathway into university.

The Challenge

Adopting new learning models to better engage with recent school leavers from around the globe

Given the demographic of younger audience, the UNSW Global FEEC team wanted to re-imagine digital education that would appeal and drive engagement amongst this segment as they transition from high school into foundation studies and university.

The transition to university for many students in this critical age group generally exhibits a higher tendency of stress, as this requires the student to make significant adjustments to their personal, social, and academic lives.

The delivery of the online learning format provided flexibility and enabled the opportunity for students to learn in a stable environment and support in their home countries. Keeping in mind the importance of social support particularly for this age group, the courses were designed to encourage social development and empower learners to exchange ideas, collaborate, engage in independent learning, provide feedback, share emotions whilst improving on time management skills and adapting to new ways of learning from their transition from high school.

Therefore, some of the key challenges include:

1. Transfer of course-book-based lesson content to a digital medium

What is retained in a format close to the original? What needs to be modified? What needs to be altered significantly? What should be removed completely?

It was not possible to begin addressing these questions until after we saw the new format and tried out various lessons and series of lessons. Feedback from both students and teachers, understanding the various functionalities available via the OpenLearning platform, and re-evaluating to improve each lesson intake were crucial in improving the learning experience of the FEEC program.

2. Instructional Language

Instructions from the printed course-book were largely transferred to the online activities, often with more informal language, presumably in an attempt to increase engagement. However, in the face-to-face context teachers add to instructions as lessons progress and can monitor comprehension. The OpenLearning platform enables the ability to add audio or video files either by reading out the instructions or providing additional explanations as students go through the lessons in an orderly manner.

3. Course Structure

Originally, the course was delivered via 20 hours of face-to-face instruction each unit each week. What does that mean in an online context? The early decision was to retain this structure of a 10-unit structure with 5 parts, mirroring a 5-day week. However, we soon discovered that mirroring a face-to-face format to an online format did not work. The early challenge was that the lesson content needed to be modified and edited.

4. Role of the teacher/facilitator

Another challenge faced was the role of the teacher and facilitator involvement. It was important that the online delivery included not just asynchronous modes of learning but complemented with high levels of synchronous learning. Given the nature of the target audience is of a younger demographic and from an international background, it was important that they were able to easily reach out to teachers to ask questions, seek feedback, and clarify on tasks. The seamless integration of Zoom within the OpenLearning courses enabled high levels of engagement between student-to-teacher interaction through instruction, monitoring, and supervision.

The Solution

Driving engagement amongst young international learners incorporating best practices in educational learning pedagogies

The design strategy and model involved a close partnership between UNSW Global and OpenLearning team. The FEEC program is delivered online using the OpenLearning platform, with interactive lesson materials and activities, as well as live classes taught via Zoom.

OpenLearning includes a student profile with a designated blog space. It also offers features that allow administrators and teachers to track progress, such as completion of activities and commenting.

The course content aims to prepare learners for university by developing their skills in:

  • Establishing academic conventions;
  • Listening to and processing real lectures, discussions and media reports;
  • Giving academic presentations in their discipline;
  • Participating effectively and confidently in academic discussions;
  • Reading real university-level texts;
  • Producing complex essays, case study analyses and reports with appropriate referencing; and
    Independent learning strategies.

Some Examples of Course Activities within the OpenLearning platform

The layout of lesson activities was provided in a logical format and intuitive structure that was easily applied to a LIVE class context with a teacher, in addition to being used as self-study or homework, or group work. The LIVE class component was well integrated as part of the lesson and was well received by students.

This activity, showcasing the post-file widget and commenting feature, illustrates how these specific functionalities create a dynamic atmosphere at the beginning of a lesson as students share their experiences and exchange ideas.

Another example is a page organised as a series of activities that ‘scaffold’ the process of creating a blog entry. By the time the learner has completed all the activities, they have already accumulated the content with the final activity providing guidance with compiling and editing. The blog entry can be ‘published’ to their blog section in their student profile. What they have produced in the space of about an hour is a tremendously satisfying first attempt at blogging.

The Results

Maintaining academic integrity and exceeding student expectations

The UNSW Foundation English Entry Course (FEEC) is focused on enabling students be prepared for university and improve their English skills so they can succeed in workforce after graduation.

A key metric to measure the success of the FEEC program was student engagement which was collected through post-course survey. Some of the feedbacks from students were:

I have learned many skills through this course, and I believe it will be very helpful to my future study. -- Liu Mingxun Chris

The teacher of the course was very responsible and Kate gave us feedback on every essay. I think she will be tired after watching all the 13 people in our class. My classmates are friendly, too. We talk and joke every day. The lessons are also very interesting. -- Luo Yichao LaVine

I enjoyed the course. Because there are friendly teachers and students here, who are very helpful in my course. It was an incredible experience for me. I like the teachers, students and teaching content of this course. It was an unforgettable experience. I think I will miss all this. -- Chai Zhiyan

I love Open Learning. I like that it's on a schedule. This tells me very clearly how many tasks I haven't completed. -- Yao Jingyu Lisa
I like its convenience. I am very clear about the courses I want to study, the way of class, the contact information with teachers and the way of evaluation. -- Cai Zhiyan
The OpenLearning program posts events about each week's units, and I do them regularly. At the same time, I can communicate with my teachers and friends. We are also improving our writing skills by blogging. -- Eda Ceyhan
I think this online program is easy for use and also useful, and I like that I can check my progress all the time so I won't miss my progress . -- Ho Yushuan Shane

UNSW Global

UNSW Global, owned by UNSW Sydney, offers pathway programs for international learners. Of these, the “Academic English Programs” is a key enabler for international learners to succeed at university by improving their English skills. The Foundation English Entry Course (FEEC) is a 10-week ELICOS course in which students acquire, develop and demonstrate Academic English skills. FEEC students continue into year-long Foundation courses before entering UNSW undergraduate degrees and are, therefore, a cohort with unique needs.


Sydney, Australia



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Huge congratulations to Dale Jung and Kate Randazzo from UNSW Global on being awarded the English Australia Action Research award for 2021. Kate and Dale's action research project titled ‘The Upward Cycle: Learner Progress through Critical Reflection and Strategic Response’ looked at how student engagement and motivation among our Foundation English Entry Course students (an ELICOS course) on the OpenLearning Limited (ASX:OLL) platform could increase through incorporating growth mindset strategies and critical reflection in the assessment process. They have also been looking at how this cycle of motivation, engagement, reflection and use of growth mindset strategies can positively impact student progress. This is especially relevant for us as our FEEC students continue on year long Foundation pathways before entering UG degrees at UNSW and need to remain highly engaged and focussed but this research also has far reaching implications for all pathway programs and courses being delivered online as well. The simplicity of the proposed model and its transferability make it especially helpful for all Australian pathway providers.
Aparna Jacob
Director of Studies (Language Programs), UNSW Global

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