Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Australian Student Experience

The Australian Student Experience Survey 2016 has been published by the Australian Government on the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) website. Overall the news is good, with a Teaching Quality rating of 81% overall. The result which the media has focused on is that the Group of Eight leading universities scored below average for student satisfaction. However, these are leading universities based on the quality of their research. If students want a better educational experience they should choose an institution which has education as the priority, not research. However, contrary to the advertising by universities, study is not fun, it is very hard work, stressful and frustrating.

One other finding is that the percentage of higher education students who considered dropping out is higher for External/Distance students is 17% higher than for other students (21% versus 18%). This is also not a surprise, as it is more difficult for distance students to remain engaged. But what is surprising is that overall at all times about one in five students are considering dropping out. Last month Dr Cathy Stone produced National Guidelines for Improving Student Outcomes in Online Learning. While intended for e-learning, these measures be applied to improving retention of on-campus students as well.

The reason for  41% of those considering withdrawing is health or stress. Course designers can assist this by reducing the stress caused, especially by assessment. I suggest the use of early and frequent progressive assessment.

A surprising result is the percentage of students with low grades who had considered quiting. The higher the grade the fewer students consider quitting. However, about 45% of students with a grade of 49% or lower consider quitting. This seems a low figure and I would have thought more students would consider withdrawing. While universities should have measures for retaining students, they should also be encouraged to withdraw where the course does not suit them.

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