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How are you making sure that you are providing the right support for the right people?

When a new student enrolls, what information do you collect – and is it collected consistently? What about the information which comes under “self disclosing”.

In conversations we’ve had with staff, often consistency is compromised for speed, and without an understanding of why such information is important it’s easier for staff to de-prioritise the “optional” information collected. So even when a prospective or existing student self-discloses information it isn’t always captured. If it was important it would be compulsory – right?

We recognise that it’s not possible to collect all the information that can identify at risk students upon enrollment. Which is why we’ve taken on a staged approach to our Student Characteristic checklist.

Risk Assessment – Student Characteristic Checklist

Stage 1: Major factors (standard collected data)

Is the student…

  • Studying part time?
  • Over 30 years old?
  • From low SES background (initially based on home address)
  • Studying by distance/ online
  • Coming from a VET/RTO program

Stage 2: Interviewing/ personalised contact

Is the student…

  • A working parent
  • A single parent
  • A carer
  • Indigenous (self-identifying)
  • First in family
  • Dealing with learning challenges like dyslexia, ADHD
  • Lacking clear sense of purpose for studying
  • Expressing a view that they have “insufficient ability” to succeed
  • Lacking in alignment between their long term goals and their choice of course/ career
  • Lacking in alignment between their strengths and abilities and their choice of course/ career (inherent requirements)

The second stage conversation will obviously require trust to exist between the University/interviewer and the individual student. Understanding (and sharing that understanding) of the purpose of the conversation, and aligning it with “helping us best support you in your studies” rather than identifying challenged individuals is key. None of these conversations should ever be approached as remedial by either party, so training in these conversations is crucial.

We want every student to have the best opportunity to succeed and complete their studies.

So you have the data, what happens next?

Some of the above indicators may appear as difficult to address or support. What these indicators suggest (and keeping in mind these are generalised) is the existence of the following challenges:

  • financial pressure
  • time pressure
  • external pressures (priorities)
  • poor or non-existent support externally
  • low motivation
  • low confidence/ self belief
  • learning challenges
  • clarity of commitment/ expectations

Utilising existing in-house support programs such as new student career counseling (rather than waiting until they have nearly finished), scholarships, tutoring and mentoring, flexible (online) study options, formative (progressive) assessments, counseling support, research and academic skills programs, etc can be a vital component in supporting these students.

What else? Many of these challenges tend to fall under “personal circumstances” in research, and are often either discounted or excluded in support offerings. This is our area of expertise. Whole-of-life, mindset, confidence, personal learning strategies, proactive learning behaviours… we help students develop in these areas.

If you’d like to know more about how we conduct our retention assessments, coaching high-risk students or provide our learn2learn program for your students, please contact us or visit our University dedicated site.