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.
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 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.
Among this group, there were 223 personal interactions in the form of comments between students. These comments coincided with activities where students were expected to share an artifact 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.
Realising the possibilities of scalable and on-demand online learning:
UNE are determining target schools for 2020, as a potential audience for the course in HSC (and equivalent) STEM and Agriculture subjects. As there is significant value in that each of the 6 lessons designed from this course can stand alone, these courses will be piloted as support foundational skills modules in first year units in 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.