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University Students As Stars: How To Prevent Them Fading Before It's Too Late

Sarah Crossing

Sarah Crossing

Jul 2, 2015

How do you prevent students dropping out of first year at university? Timing is everything, according to British university studies. So, when exactly is "just-in-time"?

Consider James, a first year Business student. He doesn't log in to the university student portal for several weeks in a row, and he stops attending lectures.

This behavioural data flags James as at-risk. The data allows the university to follow-up with strategies such as making personal phone calls, interviews, encouraging logins, as well as boosting email response and forum engagement, all to try to keep James in his course and successfully finish.

Those strategies and more are often very well-implemented and tracked by uni staff, using the available visible, behavioural data.

What's missing is the invisible behaviour and data that makes up James' personal study experience.

This isn't James. But it could be. Source: Vanderbilt University


Students as stars

We've all heard that when you look at stars flickering in the night sky, you are looking into the past. 

When universities look at visible, behavioural data for students, the frustration, isolation, irritation, and dissatisfaction has likely occurred several weeks prior.

Eta Carinae, a star 7500 light years away is putting on a visible show. But it might have already faded without us knowing. Source: NASA.

What does 'just-in-time' mean?

At 7.12pm Tuesday, James spends yet another 40 minutes working out an accounting formula.

At 9.32pm Sunday, Georgia is stuck on another differential equation in engineering.

At 7.45pm Monday, Johan gets irritated trying to structure another report.

These moments and thousands more are core to the university experience - pushing through independent study, critical thinking, turning enquiries into learning, and either succeeding or giving up.

These are each student's personal 'just in time' moments. 

For many universities, these moments and the data about them are invisible, despite occurring every night.

A whole galaxy of student experiences

Educators know best that the student experience is complex and personalised. There isn't one red flag to warn the university that James and Georgia and Johan are at-risk as first year students. There are many, many small - visible and invisible - instances that might fade or brighten the student's star.

The necessary strategy is timely, consistent, and personal support, to both capture data about at-risk study moments, and to prevent the moments from escalating.

The Milky Way (we're sticking with the astronomical theme.) Lots of students, lots of at-risk moments, all unique. Source: NASA.

Why it matters now

Student retention will always be a challenge. Now, with more first-in-family, low-SES, and under-prepared students set to enrol in higher education, it is a priority issue.

Further, with more students learning online, or universities pushing learning back online (flipping), students will be expected to learn independently out of lecture theatres. There is more responsibility on students for their own learning, at a time when 1 in 5 first year students quit.

Understanding students' 'just in time' and 'at risk' moments now is crucial.

Student support solution

In a June 2015 survey of 500 students using Studiosity in Sydney, 86% felt more likely to complete their course because of Studiosity's 24/7 online academic intervention.

Australian universities racing to adopt Studiosity know it doesn't get more timely than a few seconds' notice. Studiosity delivers academic support just-in-time and alleviates a student's study frustration - better preventing stars burning out early and universities noticing too late.


Studiosity is a proud sponsor of Uni STARS in Melbourne, and Merrill Atlas - Director of Tertiary Education - is a chair at the event.

Find out more about Studiosity for the Student Experience.


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