Ensuring student success in online studies

As university students transition to studying online in the wake of coronavirus, experts say there are two key activities which will make the difference between success and failure in this ‘new normal’.

Griffith Online Academic Director, Professor Nick Bartersays this sudden shift to study exclusively through computer screens rather than in-person, requires commitment but the same set of study skills.

“Online study does takes persistence, self-motivation, time management and the ability to focus in the face of a thousand distractions at home.”

“We all look for shortcuts and quick fixes in life and in most cases there aren’t any,” Professor Barter said.

“Our data analysis shows however that there are two key areas which directly correlate to grades in online studies, being Time on Task and Conversations about Content.”

Portrait of Dr Nick Barter, Director MBA, leading on red wall
Professor Nick Barter

Professor Barter says Time on Task refers to the time spent reading, digesting and carrying out activities.

“We know that a student’s ability to, for instance, commit to time on their Learning@Griffith course site, has a correlation with the grade received.

“We believe the number of hours required to succeed in online 12-week courses doesn’t vary that much from the 12-week on-campus requirement per grade but that what is different is a students’ ability to commit to this time in a less structured environment, which means scheduling and prioritising study becomes more important than ever.

“Research also indicates that accessing the course materials online at least five times a week leads to a 92% chance of a student continuing through their course and accessing these materials less than once a week results in a higher likelihood of dropping the course (52%).

“Scheduling time to access the course sites each day to digest content is more likely to lead to success, than spending 8-10 hours in one day.”

Professor Barter says chatting on social platforms that support the course content, what he calls Conversations about Content, is the second critical determinate of success for online students.

“We learn in a social context, so following, posting and liking comments made in a synchronous chat and discussion boards allow physically distant students to connect with their content in a more meaningful way,” he explained.

“This social learning enables students to learn from the questions of others, understand other perspectives on the topic and gauge their own performance at the same time.

“There is also a strong correlation between conversation in social learning and the average grade received for the course.”

Professor Barter says if the social learning tools aren’t already in use, students should develop them.

“If a course doesn’t have a social learning platform that is working for the student, I’d suggest creating their own study group, much the same was they may have done on campus.”

The Griffith Study Planner is a useful tool to identify a students’ current commitments and allocate time required to be ‘on task’ to achieve the desired grade.

Griffith is already well advanced in online delivery, with more than 20 years delivering quality online education and offering more than 100 fully online degrees.

Forty per cent of students were already studying at least one course online through our well-established Digital campus prior to COVID-19.