Dr Cathy Stone is employed by the University of Newcastle and is an Equity Fellow with the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education. She has had many years’ experience in developing and managing strategies to improve student success and retention in higher education, with her research and publications focusing particularly on the experiences of mature-age and first-in-family students. Cathy’s work with Open Universities Australia between 2011-2014 sparked her interest in researching the online student experience and ways in which to improve outcomes for diverse cohorts of online students.
Further details about Cathy’s work can be found here.
Online learning has become a well-recognised part of the broader landscape of higher education. It is also proving to have a critical place in widening access and equity within this landscape. Increasing numbers of students from backgrounds historically under-represented at university are taking the opportunity to begin undergraduate study online, including through open-entry and alternative-entry pathways. However, retention in online undergraduate programs has been shown to be at least 20% lower than in face-to-face programs (Greenland & Moore, 2014; Moody, 2004), with an Australian Government Department of Education and Training report (2014) finding that only 44.4% of fully external (online) students, compared with a rate of 76.6% for face-to-face students, completed their undergraduate degrees over an 8-year period.
This presentation provides an overview of a national project being conducted by one of the inaugural Equity Fellows with the NCSEHE. Now in its final stages, this project has been investigating the effectiveness of practices, supports and retention strategies in online learning at Australian universities and at the Open University UK. It discusses the background to this project, its findings and outcomes. Together with research evidence from the international literature, the project is delivering a set of national guidelines for Australian institutions for improving the participation, retention and academic success of students in online education.
Room 1025, Level 10 Library (stage 2, entrance beyond the arcade near the IT service centre)