According to the Regional Universities Network, students at universities in regional areas face unique challenges compared to their metropolitan counterparts. People from regional and remote areas are:
Therefore, the distinct challenge for the University of New England (UNE) is to provide a higher level of engagement and support pre-arrival for students given that they are more likely to have additional barriers to learning than metro students.
The Schools of Science and Technology, and Environmental and Rural Science enrol approximately one third of the offers that are made for UNE each year. It was identified that an opportunity exists to increase this conversion rate through early engagement of prospective students.
UNE partnered with OpenLearning to develop the Boosting Science Pathways program in an effort to achieve three main goals:
In collaboration with OpenLearning, UNE developed the Boosting Science Pathways course. The Boosting Science Pathways course targets students seeking STEM qualification that have limited discipline background or a lower than required ATAR score for desired course enrolment. It is not assumed that they have any science background from their previous studies.
The Boosting Science Pathways program has been developed to enhance future students’ understanding of what university learning in the sciences entails and smooths entry into tertiary education.
The goal of the program for students is to:
Furthermore, by developing a program that employs a social constructivist approach to learning design, the program also fosters a community of practice whereby students work together to:
As a result of the pilot Boosting Science Pathway program, participation increased substantially from 30% (2018/19) to 61% rate of acceptance, a 103% YoY growth in conversion rates of offers to enrolments. A significant number of these students had completed >90% of the course.
As of November 2021, there were 347 personal interactions in the form of comments between students. These comments coincided with activities where students were expected to share an artefact of learning and seek feedback.
The social constructivist pedagogy used in the development of this course encourages these interactions, where students have an opportunity to co-construct knowledge in a community of practice.
Of which, the program has been overwhelmingly positive amongst the students with given testimonials provided by UNE:
“[It] has been a great little introduction into beginning uni. It has refreshed previous knowledge and has introduced me to new ways of learning. It is building my excitement to get stuck into my degree.”
“[It] has taught me and helped me understand difficult concepts that are hard to explain. It has developed my understanding and knowledge to be able to explain different ideas and concepts in a number of ways. The simple yet effective explanations and definitions captured my attention and engaged me to learn. I enjoyed this module and also the activities really helped developed what was learnt.”
Realising the possibilities of scalable and on-demand online learning, the pilot Boosting Science Programs has since been embedded in UNE101 and made available to all students offered a place in courses presented by the School of Science & Technology and the School of Environmental and Rural Sciences (Source: Pulse News 2020).
The University of New England (UNE) is a public university in Australia with approximately 22,500 higher education students. Its original and main campus is located in the city of Armidale in northern central New South Wales. UNE was the first Australian university established outside a state capital city.