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Challenging students’ lack of engagement in online learning by strategically generating opportunities to integrate learning analytics and nudging

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 12:00pm – 12:30pm parallel session



Room 2 – 303-G14, Sem



Professor Jill Lawrence
University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Dr Marita Basson
University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Associate Professor Petrea Redmond
University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Dr Alice Brown
University of Southern Queensland, Australia



Distance teaching and learning in higher education has fundamentally transformed with universities implementing online delivery to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of students’ learning experiences. The diversity of students now accessing university, however, means that some are inexperienced with online pedagogies and unskilled and unprepared for navigating often inconsistent online learning management systems. Lack of digital skills means challenges for student engagement, outcomes and retention. To investigate these issues, a project was conducted at the University of Southern Queensland researching the use of learning analytics (LAs) to encourage unengaged students into accessing key learning resources. Based on the theoretical perspectives provided by critical discourse (exploring students’ lack of familiarity with university literacies and discourses) and communication (highlighting the use of explicit discourses and expectation management strategies) theories, a staged intervention strategy was conducted across three courses – in Nursing, Education and Engineering (n=892). The intervention took place in Semester 1, 2018. Key steps included: 1) the identification of 5-6 critical Study Desk resources/activities in the first 5 weeks in each course; 2) the use of data analytics to identify non/low engaged students and a series of strategic ‘nudging’ communications designed to foster engagement; 3) weekly research meetings to critically reflect on the how/when/what to nudge, as well as to examine the successes and challenges of the intervention; and 4) analysis of data. The data included LAs reflecting students’ ‘engagement behaviour’ with critical course resources; voluntary pre- and post-study online surveys to determine the perceived impact of the nudges and the efficacy of the intervention in terms of ‘changes of engagement behaviour’; interviews conducted with students; Student Evaluations of Teaching (SETs); and students’ emails and forum posts related to the nudge initiative. The findings revealed the efficacy of prioritising early expectation management and engagement principles by sending targeted communications or nudges to low/non engaged students. The nudges assisted students to manage their expectations by alerting them to resources essential to their assessment. The results also revealed the importance of using appropriate language and information including adopting an informal style of communication; proactively articulating explicit course requirements linked to students’ responsibilities; and adopting a strengths-based approach to nudges. Overall the results confirm that the use of communication strategies can enhance student engagement and retention.


Presentation topic

Academics – Academic Development

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