Symposium: Retention restaurant degustation: Ghost students, Cohort snapshots and Embedded Tutors

Presenter: Neil van der Ploeg

Co-presenter(s): Kelly Linden; Sarah Teakel; Noelia Roman; Ben Hicks

Faculty / Division: Division of Student Success

School / Unit: 

Session Type: Symposium

Session Number: 5

When: Wednesday 16th November at 11:15 am

Zoom link: Passcode: 006869

Individual presentation title 1: Improving Student Success with Embedded Tutor Support in First-Year Subjects.

Individual presentation title 2: Developing a learning analytics resource with meaningful data for teachers.

Individual presentation title 3: Ghostbusters: Early identification and understanding of non-participating enrolments


Welcome to the Retention Restaurant. This year we present to you three courses, including some of our finest data from different areas of our Team’s work. Here is a brief summary of each course:

Presentation 1: Institutional commitment to the student experience in the early stages of university has the greatest potential to exceed student expectations. The cross-institutional Embedded Tutors Program provides undergraduate students with access to subject content experts from 12 first-year subjects across a regional university. Tutors provide one-on-one draft assessment feedback in subjects with a large written assessment task. A total of 428 students attended 615 tutor sessions held online via Zoom. Students who met with a tutor had higher average assessment marks and cumulative subject marks than those students who did not attend a session. Feedback from students was positive, with 78% of students rating the tutor session “extremely helpful.” This study provides evidence of the value of subject-specific draft assessment feedback for students in first-year subjects.

Presentation 2: It is known that due to the large, diverse sets of data captured in learning analytics, clear display of information is crucial to its success. Here, we describe a concise learning analytics resource, the Cohort Snapshot, that has been developed using a human centred approach, with input from experienced academics from across the institution. Meaningful data is presented as a unit level summary and includes program enrolment, student demographics, grade distributions and LMS activity. The data that was used to develop the resource was accessed via the university’s data warehouse which was synthesised using the R programming language. The Cohort Snapshot provides teaching academics, including sessional staff, access to data, to allow the adaption of teaching pedagogy to meet the needs of increasingly diverse student cohorts in a regional Australian university.

Presentation 3: Unit failure at university is an unfortunate reality for many students yet the literature on the topic is scarce. At the extreme end of failure are ‘ghost students’ who enrol in university, have little to no engagement in the learning resources, and do not submit any assessments. This study sheds light on this dark side of the university experience by investigating the prevalence and behaviour of non-participating enrolments, who fail with a mark of 0%. Analysis of 252,293 grades from 32,290 students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree from 2018-2020 showed that non-participating enrolments were the most common type of unit failure. Receiving even one 0% fail in the commencing semester of study indicated a 6% chance of a student passing most of their units in their second semester. Australian First Nations students were most at risk of receiving a non-participating enrolment. Students were identified early by non-submission of an early assessment or absence from the learning management system and targeted support was offered, which aligned with a reduced incidence of failing grades. Of those students who remain enrolled and received a non-participating enrolment, many indicated pre census that they intended to withdraw or had planned to submit the missed assessment.