Given that unsuccessful transition can incur significant cost to the student and to the institution in which they are studying, I have developed and implemented an online workshop (called JumpStart your Science and Online Learning) to assist in narrowing the gap between high school and university studies to ease the transition for first year nursing and midwifery students.
Most Australian Universities offer similar bridging workshops or short courses in a number of the STEM disciplines that introduce the fundamentals of a complex subject. However JumpStart is unique in that’s its design and instructor intentions are informed by pedagogical research that has identified three key indicators that can be used as predicators of both poor transition and subsequent low academic performance and/or a student being at risk of attrition, and aims to address these in the workshop. These indicators include the student’s entry level of biological science knowledge and academic literacy, as well as their level of engagement with specific parameters in the online learning environment within the first two weeks of starting their University course (O’Flaherty, 2018).
Of those students that have participated in the three Jumpstart workshops to date (2015-2017), 93% have successfully completed their first year program studies. Participants in the 2017 workshop achieved a 96% pass rate for their compulsory first year nursing and midwifery Human Body 1 course (an introduction to Anatomy and Physiology). Additionally, all students participating in the workshop’s academic writing skills module successfully passed all written assessments in three of their other major first year compulsory courses.
Typically, the university experience is deemed to begin when students arrive on their campus to enrol. Increasingly educators are realising that this narrow view of the first year fails to take account of the many factors that shape student aspirations and expectations regarding university study prior to enrolment. The first taste of university should begin with an active tailored transition program (Bradley, D et al., 2008). Success comes easier to students if they are in their comfort zone. Students who feel at ease with their teaching & learning environment and feel confident, make a more successful transition to University, having a higher tendency to adjust to this environment when they first start their courses and achieve success in their first year (Baik, C et al.,2015). An Australian review of the first year experience (Australian Teaching and Learning Council executive summary, 2009) found the first two weeks of beginning a degree are critical to student’s success and retention. Students who are engaged in their program by Week 2 persist at a higher rate than overall rates of attrition suggest, rates which range from slightly higher than the overall retention rate to a rate of retention of 96% after Week 2 in one program.
My research has identified three key indicators that are useful predictors of student first year retention and success in nursing and midwifery courses (O’Flaherty, 2018; O’Flaherty and Laws, 2014). These include the student’s current entry level of biological science and academic literacy as well as their level of online engagement with their learning management system (LMS) supported nursing course by week 2 of starting their program.Consequently in JumpStart I have developed specific workshop tools and resources to equip students with the necessary assumed science knowledge and academic writing skills to start their degree. JumpStart also provides a foundation for how students will need to operate within an online environment to be successful as an online learner. The workshop particularly targets students starting university study with no science knowledge, school leavers who’ve completed year 12 but don’t have the recommended level of chemistry and science as indicated in assumed knowledge, returning or mature-age students following an extended period of absence and, students from non-English speaking backgrounds/Internationals. Please see the supporting document file for further information on student demographics which predict poor transition and future attrition.
The JumpStart workshop is promoted by the UniSA marketing department via email to all potential nursing and midwifery students in early January prior to the workshop commencement in early February, two weeks before students officially begin their nursing program. An EDM (electronic direct mail) is emailed out to promote the workshop to all internal and external nursing and midwifery offerees. The EDM serves as a short teaser and demonstrates the value of the workshop, what commencing students can expect and some key details such as times and RSVP dates, directing offerees to the workshop’s online website for more information. The EDM was sent out on set dates across the key offer round period which was selected to synchronise with other orientation communications and to avoid overwhelming offerees. As there is a lot of critical information students receive during this time it is very important to take a coordinated approach. Please see supporting documents file for more details on marketing. When students register for the workshop they are given immediate access to the workshops online Moodle platform.
JumpStart is open for 11 days, offering flexible study options, so students can fit study around their life and other work commitments. They participate in as much or as little of these days as suits their needs (usually averaging 30 hours student contact time), including evenings and weekends, with 24/7 access to staff for individualised support. They can also download the workshop timetable (see also attached workshop timetable file) to guide their daily study. JumpStart consists of four self-paced modules comprising videoed lectures and activities to introduce basic scientific ideas that students are both expected to know prior to starting their nursing degree and other content featured in their degree. JumpStart also introduces students to the Universities Learnonline Management System (LMS)-where they learn to navigate a typical Moodle course website, familiarise themselves with its features and online jargon as well as participate in academic writing skills. Regardless of their mode of enrolment, be it on campus or off campus, all our UniSA nursing and midwifery courses use LMS. For a list of workshop learning outcomes and workshop delivery instructional methods and modules please see supporting documents file.
The rationale for inclusion of the science component in JumpStart is due to our findings that students with prior biological science study have achieved higher final grades in their first year science based courses than students lacking such study (O’Flaherty, 2018). This is in agreement with Anderton et al. (2016) who reported that previous high grades in science subjects, particularly Human Biology, Physics and Chemistry are the most significant predicators of academic success in first year Anatomy and Physiology subjects. However the high pass rate for our first year nursing and midwifery science subjects at UniSA negates the need to inforce a pre-requisite for science into our program. Consequently many students do not recognise their lack of prior science learning is an obstacle to achievement in first year Nursing. The JumpStart workshop aims to both increase student’s confidence and equip them with the necessary assumed science knowledge to start their degree and thereby better align student’s aspirations with their actual academic achievement. In Jumpstart students complete 4 science based modules on key assumed knowledge in their own time and then attend virtual classrooms (VC’s) to discuss the associated worksheets with tutor and peers. Students can also self-monitor their progress with each module by attempting the online self-assessment quizzes. Please see section on virtual classrooms for more details.
The rationale for including the writing skills component is that we also found that over 25% of our incoming nursing students say they had “no idea” about the academic literacy requirements of university when they commenced their program and 40% had not formally studied for at least seven years. Those without recent study experience or with prior poor academic performance expressed high levels of anxiety about academic literacy requirements and lacked confidence in their writing abilities (O’Flaherty, 2018). These findings indicate how stressful the process of mastering academic literacies is for many first-year students’ and highlights the potential benefits of embedding academic literacies and communication skills for retention and engagement in transition programs such as Jumpstart. Similar findings have been reported by Anderton et al. (2016) who reported that a key predictor of academic success in health science subjects is writing proficiency.
In JumpStart students learn how to improve their academic writing skills in a domain specific context by using the science they have learnt in the modules and workshop online quizzes to produce short writing texts (750 words).For example after engaging with the chemistry module students post their answer to the question on the modules discussion forum: “What do you have for breakfast most days? Give the name of one nutrient found in your breakfast food, and state what it is good for and what kind of a chemicals it is--vitamin, carbohydrate, mineral, protein? Please reference where you got your information about your nutrients’ function in the body. If you don't have breakfast, then pick one from lunch or dinner!” After all students have posted their responses I forward them a feedback document on common student writing errors which they use to critique their own work, allocate themselves a mark and forward to me by private mail message. I then respond with individualised feedback to each student. Please see supporting document files for a summary of writing skills lesson plans used in JumpStart.
The rationale for inclusion of an online navigation component in the workshop was because we have shown that the more familiar students become with their online learning environment then the easier it is for them to navigate, explore, participate and do well in their studies. In the foundation bioscience course I run for nursing we use a learning management system (LMS) to monitor some of the pre-defined indicators for “at risk” students. LMS can provide a range of analytics which may be predictors of student success (Campbell De Blois & Oblinger, 2007) however as noted by Macfadyen & Dawson, 2010 “knowledge of specific subject and assessment design is essential in determining which variables may be meaningful predictors”. In our first year Bioscience course we have identified three measures of student online activity that function as predictive variables to identify students at risk of failure with up to 75% accuracy in this first year science course (O’Flaherty,2018). These are i. the number of forum postings, ii. The number and quality of mail messages, and iii. Online assessments completed in the first two weeks of commencement of course. We have also shown that 82% of students who do not engage with LMS by the second week of the course is a strong predictive indicator of those students withdrawing or failing the course (O’Flaherty, 2018).
Consequently, the tailored design of JumpStart draws on this research to provide a foundation for how students will need to operate within an online environment to be successful as an online learner. By students exploring and mastering the online environment early in JumpStart, they can devote time in the workshop to learn the necessary online skills and are then in a better position to dedicate more time and energy from day one to their University courses. It is for this reason that each JumpStart student is shown how to navigate and engage successfully with the online environment using discussion forums (encouraging students to both pose questions and answer fellow students questions), mail message (encouraging students to submit critiques via mail message for each writing piece) and, completion of both online assessments (encouraging students to monitor their self-progress in each science module using the workshops self -assessment quizzes) and worksheets (encouraging students to complete their science worksheets for each module to discuss in class with peers). Each student’s online activity is carefully monitored in JumpStart and immediately followed up if there is little or no indication of student engagement with these LMS early warning indicators.
A further aim of JumpStart is to enhance student transition by developing relationships with new peers and interacting with faculty members before they start their program which has helped many students build some long-lasting and rewarding connections. JumpStart fosters an active teaching and learning online environment in which students are shown how to participate actively and develop a sense of connection and belonging in both small and large group settings prior to beginning their courses. Such opportunities manifest themselves in many ways in JumpStart, but opportunities to ask questions and contribute to group discussion using JumpStart’s virtual classrooms are particularly conducive to engagement. Local students also have the option of meeting fellow workshop students and staff in person at an informal on campus JumpStart “get together” during Orientation week.
Jumpstart is designed to be consistent and explicit in assisting students’ transition from a student’s previous educational experience to the nature of learning in higher education and their new discipline as part of their lifelong learning journey. For example, in one of the VC students are asked to self-assess their entering knowledge, skills and attitudes against discipline expectations so the classroom tutorial is devoted to discussing expectations and responsibilities and agreeing a statement on what “independent learning” means.
Early in tertiary study, self-management skills are vital. JumpStart also provides students with opportunities to develop independent learning skills, addresses how to plan their study, break down effective email, research and time-management techniques and prepare for online exams. Virtual classroom tutorials are used in JumpStart to equip students with the self-help skills of time management, help-seeking behavior and goal setting. They are made aware of workloads and different styles of assessments and also with writing conventions.
The Virtual classroom (live online tutorials)
Students are introduced to virtual classrooms (VC’s) in Module 1. After completing the relevant topic module resources students are invited to complete the modules tutorial worksheets and bring their answers to the VC to discuss with their tutor and fellow workshop peers to check their understanding of science concepts as well as extending them with further group work activities.
A virtual classroom (VC) is a feature of UniSA Learnonline course websites that allows students to attend a tutorial in the comfort of their own home “virtually” by using their home computer. Students will benefit most if they use a headset. In order to participate in virtual classrooms for both this workshop, and indeed for many of their courses at UniSA, especially nursing and midwifery courses, students need a computer with a built in microphone or they can simply purchase their own inexpensive headset with microphone. If students choose not to attend the VC for this workshop then they will not need a headset and can simply listen and watch the VC recording on their computer at their leisure. Students are shown in module 1 how to log easily into a virtual class and how to participate in these very exciting and interactive online tutorials. For more details on virtual classes please see the supporting document file.
The following data is extracted from surveys of Jumpstart workshop students (2016-2017) and also extracted from previous Jumpstart workshop participants UniSA students’ grades in a number of key Stage 1 and Stage 2 nursing program courses (2017).Collection of data was approved by the University of South Australia ethics committee. Highlighted below is evidence to document the workshops effectiveness:
1. High Stage 1 and Stage 2 completion rates by Jumpstart workshop participants: 93% of our workshop students completed their UniSA Stage 1 and Stage 2 studies. This far exceeds the UniSA Health Science courses completion rate as withdrawal can be as high as 15% for some Stage 1 courses.
2. High satisfaction with Jumpstart workshop resources: 91.3% of students were very satisfied with the workshop; 8.7% satisfied.
3. High workshop recommendations: 100% of students would recommend this workshop to fellow students.
4. High Pass rate of JumpStart participants in the first year nursing and midwifery Bioscience courses of a 96% pass rate for the anatomy and physiology based Human Body 1.
5. Student academic writing success in key Stage 1 and 2 nursing and midwifery nursing courses. Students participating in JumpStart’s Academic writing skills activities achieved the following success: In Stage 1 Study Period (SP) 2 Global and National Health (NURS1036) 100% of JumpStart students successfully passed both written assessments. These two assessments accounted for 100% of the final grade (1500 word-and 3000 word- assessments). In Stage 1 SP5 Mental Health (HLTH1037) 100% of JumpStart students successfully passed both written assessments. These two assessments accounted for >50% of the final grade (1000 word-and 2000 word- assessments).In Stage 2 Professional Practice N (NURS1044) (Stage 2 entry only-enrolled nurse pathway) 100% of Jumpstart students successfully passed both written assessments. These two assessments accounted for >50% of the final grade (750- word-and 2000 word- assessments).
6. The top four most reported benefits of attending JumpStart workshops are: i. Increase in abilities to confidently start University: 96% very satisfied; 4% satisfied compared to 72% reporting lack of confidence pre JumpStart ii. Increase in science knowledge: 80.4% very satisfied; 19.6% satisfied iii. Increase in online navigation skills: 77.3% very satisfied; 22.7% satisfied and, iv. Increase in academic writing skills abilities: 100% very satisfied of those who participated in the writing activities.
7. The top 4 JumpStart modules that students found most beneficial to their learning are: i. Medical and Anatomical terminology; ii. Online navigation; iii.Academic writing skills and, iv.Introductory Chemistry.
8. Instructional methods students found most engaging in JumpStart are i. Virtual Classroom participation, ii. Discussion boards/forums, iii. Self-assessment quizzes and instant feedback on attempts, iv. Podcasting/Lecture capture and, v. online resources/Links.
9. Jumpstart’s data rich learning analytics dashboards allowed monitoring of non-engaging students and timely follow up by staff in the workshop. In addition, in 2017 three of our workshops indigenous students were referred onto the Aboriginal Tutorial Program prior to starting Uni and all three have now successfully passed all their first year courses.
The JumpStart workshop principally addresses the pillar of learning effectiveness. Based on the results presented earlier in the Evidence of effectiveness section, there have been a number of favourable student learning outcomes arising from participating in Jumpstart, especially as a result of the workshop specifically addressing key indicators that we have found to be useful predictors of both student first year attrition and success in nursing and midwifery, namely including: key biological science content, fostering academic writing skills as well as early familiarization with key online activities. It is clear that a higher number of Jumpstart students complete the first year of their program (93%) and achieve academic success in key core foundation courses (anatomy, physiology, academic writing), compared to the reported attrition rate of 15% and up to 30% failure rate for first year nursing and midwifery students. Student feedback (as indicted throughout and in the supporting materials section) was highly positive to the beneficial impact of the workshop towards their learning.
The workshop can also relate to the other 4 pillars which will be described below.
The JumpStart workshop is currently only open to first and second year newly commencing UniSA nursing and midwifery students but our Institution plans to extend this to all Health Science students in 2019. JumpStart is delivered via an external Moodle Learning Management System, which can be accessed by students after they enrol in the workshop. No separate software is required.
Workshop tutorials are conducted in Virtual Classrooms (VC) delivered via an Adobe Connect platform, software licences for which have been purchased by the university; so there are no additional costs to students.
The VC are compatible with Windows and Mac platforms, and can be accessed on a desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone so students are able to access and interact online even while commuting to and from work or while at work on their lunch breaks.
For the VC, workshop students are encouraged to have microphones and webcams however they are not disadvantaged if they do not have these. They can actively participate, interact and contribute in the VC using chat boxes, on line polls and access to the VC whiteboards. For those students unable to attend a live VC, the recorded session (mp4) is uploaded to the workshop course site students for students to watch and listen to at a time that suits their needs.
For support students can use the online discussion forums, as well as email or phone staff from 9am-midnight for every day the workshop is open including weekdays. IT and library online support systems are also available to all JumpStart students via links on the workshops website.
The JumpStart workshops tailored design and positive student impact has been recognised by my peers locally and nationally. For example the Jumpstart workshop online initiative was awarded a Teaching and Learning award for excellence in online practice in 2017.In addition feedback from faculty on the success of JumpStart, particularly for our Aboriginal students, includes comments from Mr Dylan Hunter, Director of the Aboriginal Student Engagement Office, UniSA ; Dr Roshni Thattengat, Senior Project Officer (Aboriginal Leadership and Strategy) and Professor Esther May, Dean of Clinical Education and Equity, Health Sciences Divisional Office, UniSA :“I believe that the opportunity to participate in the JumpStart workshop has improved the engagement of our Indigenous students with Learnonline and the Aboriginal Tutorial Program” ; “ …most importantly, our Aboriginal students (W, X, Y, and Z) have been some of the most enthusiastic participants in the UniSA Aboriginal writing program, and I believe this is linked to the writing activities that were introduced in Jackie’s 2017 JumpStart Workshop, and the emphasis she placed on academic writing skills” ; “Thanks for your dedication to the Aboriginal students in the Division of Health Sciences, and improving the confidence, science knowledge and writing skills of students early so they produce better written assignments and move through their program of study with greater ease”.
Our aboriginal students, particularly those who live remotely on their homelands and outstations, have a very low program completion rate of only 1% compared to our local students. Since offering the JumpStart program 15 of our indigenous students have all experienced a successful transition to University. Those identified as “at risk” during JumpStart, based on the LMS JumpStart analytics, were referred to our Indigenous support team for ongoing mentoring.
In 2018 and 2019 our Institution intends to not only extend JumpStart to all UniSA Health Science students, but also to our University partners: Open Universities Australia and our UniSA SAIBT Health science students (please see Scale section for more information).
Scale (cost effectiveness and commitment)
In 2017, the workshop attracted 65 off campus and 62 on campus nursing students who entered UniSA through a traditional secondary education pathway. However, there are several alternative university entrance pathways available to mature-age students, low TER, and International students. Consequently due to the success of the JumpStart workshop, our Institution has decided to extend JumpStart to our University Partner SAIBT students. These are students who did not get the necessary University entrance score (ATAR) they wanted or who maybe are looking to change careers. As the SAIBT pathway takes students into the 2nd year of most UniSA Health Science Bachelor degrees it will be very important that these students make a successful transition to our University hopefully aided by participating in the JumpStart program.
Additionally in 2019, our Institution intends to extend JumpStart to all incoming UniSA Health Science students; i.e. Physiotherapy, Pharmacy, Medical Sciences, Podiatry, Occupational Therapy, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Laboratory Medicine, Medical Radiation, Nutrition and Food Sciences, Health Science, Human Movement and Exercise and Sports Science.
We also intend to offer JumpStart in the future as a dual offering; i.e. in both its current online format as well as an on campus offering where local students can choose to attend on campus live lectures and on campus tutorials over a more intensive four days offering.
The virtual classroom technology I describe in this application, has been disseminated and is now accessible University wide. The practice of using VC to support teaching and learning is directly aligned with our Universities new Digital Learning Strategy (DLS) 2015-2020 which promises to deliver “an engaging and digitally enriched curriculum, support students to become productive professionals in a digital age, offer expanded flexible learning arrangements, develop our academics as leaders in the digital learning experience and inspire and support lifelong learning.”
As discussed earlier in the Evidence of practice section, there has been a high degree of student satisfaction reported from workshop participants with 91.3% of students reporting they were very satisfied with the workshop and 8.7% satisfied. In addition 100% of students commented they would recommend this workshop to fellow students. Some examples of student testimonials include:
“A great workshop that was easy to understand. I am amazed how much I learned in such a short time. This course is a great investment to kick the nerves and give you a good basic idea of what to expect and of the sciences before starting your degree.” Angie Sugden, Bachelor of Nursing; “This is the best possible way to start online learning. Way above what I expected.” Stephen Ibiwoye, Bachelor of Nursing; “This workshop really gave me a kickstart back into not only university but online learning. Not having studied in over 17 years, this has given me the confidence to use the Learn Online site, participate in virtual classrooms, student forums, as well as brushed up on my science knowledge.” Cindy Gore, Bachelor of Nursing. For a full list of student testimonials and also student comments on my teaching in the workshop, please see the supporting document file.
The workshop platform uses the Universities existing online learning management system (LMS) called Moodle (see attached file “supporting teaching materials” for screen shots of the workshop course website, module worksheets, lecture notes and VC resources).
The only equipment students require to access the workshop resources and virtual classrooms are a computer, laptop or tablet device. Students enrolling in the workshop are aware of this requirement and happy to comply. Students can also purchase a headset for around $25.00 which they can then later use to participate in VC that are now being embraced by other courses in their UniSA programs.
Historically, when the workshop was first offered, the University did impose a fee to recover costs for marketing, registration, enrolment (approximate total cost of $30.00 per student) and an additional “out of hours” teaching cost (30hrs per staff member per 60 students); a reduced rate was offered for special circumstances e.g. financial hardship, and the fees for our Aboriginal students were fully subsidised by the Institution.
However, due to the success of the JumpStart workshop our Institution intends to offer the next offering of JumpStart free of charge to students.
No additional costs are incurred by the student apart from the optional cost of the headset with microphone to participate in the virtual classrooms which students would need to purchase anyway for many of their University courses.
1. Anderton, R; Evans, T and Chivers, P (2016). Predicting Academic Success of Health Science Students for First Year Anatomy and Physiology. International Journal of Higher Education 5 (1):250-260.
2. ATLC Executive report (2009). Articulating a transition pedagogy to scaffold and to enhance the first year student learning experience in Australian higher education. Personal communication.
3. Baik, C., Naylor, R., and Arkoudis, S. (2015). The first year experience in Australian universities: Findings from two decades, 1994-2014. Melbourne: Centre for the Study of Higher Education.
4. Bennett, Milton, J. (1998). Intercultural communication: A current perspective. In Milton J. Bennett (Ed.) Basic concepts of intercultural communication: Selected readings. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.
5. Bradley, D., Noonan, P., Nugent, H., & Scales, B. (2008). Review of Australian higher education: final report [Bradley review] (9780642778048). Canberra: DEEWR
6. Clark, R and Mayer, J (2008) E-Learning and the science of instruction. Wiley and Sons.
7. O’Flaherty, J.A, Scutter, S and Albrect, T (2010) Informing academic practise about how podcasts of lectures are used by diverse groups of students. Research and Development in Higher Education. 33, 529-539.
8. O’Flaherty, J.A and Laws, T (2014). Nursing Student’s Evaluation of a Virtual Classroom Intervention to Support Bioscience Learning. Nursing Education in Practice.14, 654-659
9. O’Flaherty, J.A and Philips, C (2015). The use of flipped classrooms in higher education. Internet and Higher Education.25, 85-95.
10. O’Flaherty, J.A (2018). Facilitating first year student success using a tailored online bridging workshop designed to enhance transition to a first year Australian University nursing & midwifery program. Preparing for publication in The Internet in Higher Education Journal, 2018.
11. Macfadyen, L and Dawson, S (2010). Mining LMS data to develop an “Early warning system” for educators. Computers and Education.54, 2, 588-599.
To conclude, my application has outlined that transition to nursing and midwifery programs is particularly challenging for our Australian students. To overcome this challenge I have utilised a pedagogical research approach to strategically develop a tailored digital preparatory science and online learning workshop over many years that not only assists and empowers our prospective nursing and midwifery students to overcome their anxieties, leading to a more successful transition but also has resulted in increased first year academic success and retention. Instructional methods (e.g. virtual classrooms) developed in my workshop have since been disseminated both Division and University wide and have earnt recognition with National teaching awards.