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The University of New England excels in setting their future students up for success

Driving engagement amongst students who had received an early offer for undergraduate studies
Driving engagement amongst students who had received an early offer for undergraduate studies

More than doubled

their conversion rate from offer to commencement

Achieved >90%

completion rate

Developed 6

high quality lessons

Generated 7

comments per student
The University of New England (UNE) identified a need for a solution to engage with students who had received an early offer for undergraduate studies. In considering their students are often from remote and regional areas, they wanted to develop a program that addressed the challenges unique to their learners.

University of New England drives growth in conversion rate of offers to enrolments

The Challenge

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:

  • Less than half as likely to gain a bachelor and above qualification by the time they are 35 years old
  • 40 per cent less likely to gain a higher-level tertiary education qualification

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.

Project Goals

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:

  • To increase the conversion rate from offers to commencement;
  • To better prepare future students for their studies at UNE; and
  • To encourage the development of a supportive, social network of future students entering the School of Science and Technology, and Environment and Rural Science program at UNE.


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.

This includes:

  • School leavers and students from a wide variety of backgrounds who have recently completed their Year 12 studies;
  • Those who have come from other disciplines of study; or,
  • Those been in the workforce in a wide diversity of employment and experiences.

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:

  • Develop an appreciation of scientific phenomena, and build skills related to the collection and interpretation of scientific knowledge;
  • Enhance their capacity to evaluate the quality of scientific information; and,
  • Develop skills in critically evaluating alternative conceptions of scientific phenomena.

OpenLearning identified UNE's need for a socially oriented course that would use the rich content already available at UNE. With our social constructivist approach, the goal was that the learners could expect to arrive on Day 1 already connected with other students in their course.

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:

  • Share experiences and ideas;
  • Co-construct knowledge; and,
  • Develop a social network that eases their nerves before they arrive on-campus for the start of their course.


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.

Moving Forward

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.

Looking for an end-to-end solution that can drive engagement for your students? OpenLearning can help. Get in touch today.

The University of New England (UNE)

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.




Educational institution

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'The budget for this project was made relatively low in order to support the UNE funding limitations. The project came in slightly under budget, but the extra time available has been used in ongoing support of the UNE team and the course. This included the creation of a short, abridged version of the course that was used to help attract students."
Lecturer in Biology - School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England

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