Under the theme of Students first: Improving satisfaction and confidence, 26 institutions from Australia and New Zealand came together at The University of Sydney to share ideas, discuss recent research, and learn from each other how the student experience can be improved in 2019 and beyond.
It became clear that Studiosity and its partners need to continue to ask the right questions to inform research, drive change in higher education, and ultimately help more students succeed with support that suits their lifestyles and study habits.
Enhancing outcomes means that universities need to a) define what student success looks like for them, b) decide on the initiatives that help them achieve real outcomes and impact the student experience, and c) figure out how they intend to measure this impact, because otherwise student success remains ‘invisible’.
Coming together to listen to students' needs. Denise Kirkpatrick, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Academic) at Western Sydney University, Julie Massaquoi and Clare Da Silva, students at Western Sydney University, and Jack Goodman, Founder of Studiosity.
How can we drive change in education?
“If we want to change the world, we have to change the way it works, ” said Bianca Hunt.
AIME Mentoring’s Co-CEO Bianca Hunt kicked off the two-day event off with an inspiring look at how we can create change, and the role education plays in making change happen.
Effective measurement of the student experience
Lisa Bolton, Director, QILT Research and Strategy, explained that universities can optimise how they use their QILT data.
Thousands of students share their experience about studying and the value of their study experience by participating in the annual QILT survey. One part of this is the Student Experience Survey, which tries to measure and collates the current university student experience. With 36% (2017) of students completing this questionnaire, it achieves a higher than average response rate for the sector, i.e. it really reaches students who are otherwise overloaded with survey requests. So universities are thinking about how they can effectively utilise this data and benchmark their student experience and student support.
Pam Muth and Lisa Bolton from the Social Research Centre believe in the power of customising the set of questions, to gather actionable results that specifically respond to an institution's strategic plans. Universities can implement targeted support questions about Studiosity, for instance, to measure the impact of the service on student experience and outcomes. We would welcome this opportunity to be measured, so that our partner institutions can quantify the impact of the service for the institution.
Contract cheating in higher education
Associate Professor Tracey Bretag, Director, Academic Integrity, University of South Australia Business School, says contract cheating is a symptom not a problem, of the contemporary higher education space (read more about her presentation).
Associate Professor Tracey Bretag shared some key findings on reasons and situations when contract cheating occurs and emphasised that contract cheating is a symptom, not a problem in the current higher education landscape.
Tracey explained that satisfaction with the teaching and learning environment, a native language other than English, and the perception that there are many opportunities to cheat, are the three main factors that contribute to a student's decision to cheat. One of her surveyed students said that “Education [is] now a 'business' and degrees [are] sold as a 'product' - there is less connection and understanding that university is about acquiring knowledge. It is seen as a user-pays system to get the degree.”
“Students first” means listening to their needs
Left to right: Jack Goodman, Studiosity Founder and Executive Chair, Julie Massaquoi and Clare Da Silva, students at Western Sydney University, Professor Chris Tisdell, University of New South Wales, discuss what it's like to study at university in 2018.
Julie and Clare, two Western Sydney University students, joined the stage with Professor Chris Tisdell (UNSW), Studiosity Subject Specialist Jack Cowie, and Studiosity Founder Jack Goodman to share their first-hand perspectives on what it is like to be a university student in 2018, the challenges they face, how they deal with stress, and how they use Studiosity to improve their learning, “I send every assignment draft to Studiosity and I have improved my grammar and writing so much," said Julie.
They made the point that whilst university is stressful, the support offered really helps them combat that stress. Western Sydney University offers a range of support services to their students, like the PASS program where peers support peers, and Studiosity complements their offering with after-hours, online, academic help.
The theme of the @studiosity symposium is “students first”, so only fitting that we hear from students themselves about their challenges. Work/study balance, time pressures & need for flexibility a common theme #syusergroup #studentexperience #highereducation pic.twitter.com/ip4y6d2NGQ— Lizzie Smith (@liz_csu) August 9, 2018
(Dis)satisfaction and attrition
Ittima Cherastidtham, Higher Education Fellow, Grattan Institute shared insights into why students drop out of university.
Ittima Cherastidtham and Andrew Norton investigated why and when students drop out, published in the Grattan Institute report Dropping out - the benefits and costs of trying university. They identified a strong correlation between the consideration to leave university, satisfaction with the uni’s support overall and helpfulness and availability of advisors.
Customising the student experience
Liz Smith from Charles Sturt University described how the student support at CSU has evolved and what a successful partnership with Studiosity looks like, to enhance learning within student cohorts who are 59% distance, and 41% remote. The customised Studiosity interface allows CSU to also visually integrate Studiosity into their service offering.
Academic integrity and research
Professor Judyth Sachs engages the delegates to find the top research questions around online pedagogy.
With Professor Judyth Sachs, who heads up the Studiosity Academic Services Team as Chief Academic Officer, we'd like to conduct more research projects with our partner universities in 2019. Judyth ‘flipped the classroom’ and engaged the audience in an interactive workshop to define the top research questions around online pedagogy.
AI and teacherbots in higher education
AI in higher ed, another hot topic at #syusergroup Do we understand it? How can we utilise it? “Any teacher who could be replaced with a machine, should be.” @DrChrisTisdell @studiosity pic.twitter.com/H5cztqUzig— Ramona Pradella (@Mona_0815) August 10, 2018
“Are we there yet? No, but there’s potential to grow,” said Professor Chris Tisdell. Bots can’t (yet) replace the real human one-to-one interaction with students. He added that “every teacher who could be replaced with a robot, should be.” Human interaction fulfils a specific part of the learning experience, and digital apps or tools can facilitate learning, but not fully replace face-to-face interactions. Chris invited the audience to chat to a bot themselves which led to some awe-inspiring philosophical discussions in the room.
A student-centric product - Serving growing demands
Every single day, we help students to continue learning when they leave their campus, and an excellent online experience is a crucial to ensure learning outcomes in the Studiosity learning interface. Adam McNeil and Sherwin Huang presented how we gather insights from students to continuously enhance their experience with Studiosity, and shared a glimpse into what new features and updates are in the pipeline, like the ‘SOS’ system where students can connect to a Subject Specialist any time to get 24-hour, live help with a question.
Thanks to everyone who was able to join us at the 2018 Studiosity Symposium. The two days were filled with inspiring, new ideas for how we can improve the student experience, and we can't wait to see you all again next year. Let's not forget to put students first, and help everyone to achieve their academic goals.
Released at the Symposium, you can now download your copy of the full report on the results of the 2018 National Student Survey.