On-line Enabling programs, which have been dubbed ‘uncomfortable spaces’, raise legitimate questions around the neo-liberal nature of higher education versus the importance of equity, access and widening participation. Is delivering this type of programme on-line a cost-efficient grab for more students or a genuine opportunity to reach students who, for many reasons, have been educationally excluded or marginalised?

Could a programme, intentionally and thoughtfully designed to navigate that uncomfortable on-line space, achieve improved student outcomes and an enhanced student experience? COVID-19 gave us a forced opportunity to re-design our enabling programme across multiple delivery modes and guess what: it works!

A newly designed Flinders Foundation Studies Program, including a fully on-line offering, was delivered throughout 2021. Using Lizzio’s ‘Five Senses of Success’ as a framework, in conjunction with a transition pedagogy, the programme was designed with a strong learning to learn focus, helping to develop students’ ability to be successful independent learners in preparation for further university study.

The new design uses a flipped classroom approach, with synchronous sessions dedicated to collaborative activity-based learning. This has provided students with a flexible on-line experience that still fosters the crucial sense of connectedness necessary for a successful transition into higher education. The student outcomes achieved demonstrate the success of the design.

The on-line offering attained a pass rate 30 per cent higher than that of our traditional face-to-face delivery. The pass rate for the Flinders Foundation Studies Programme has sat around 50 per cent for many years (46 per cent in 2019 and 47 per cent in 2020 respectively), which is in line with the national average for Enabling programmes. However, 2021 saw the achievement of a combined pass rate of 78 per cent for the two on-line cohorts. In a year where students found studying difficult, our on-line students expressed how valuable fit-for-purpose activities were and how a sense of belonging helped them to come together, and carry on, through to the end of the programme.

If students in the uncomfortable space of on-line Enabling can thrive in an active on-line learning environment, we suggest all students can. To do so, however, requires careful and intentional program desigm, including deliberate and inclusive approaches and strategies for student connectedness and wellbeing.

Jane Habner, Associate Lecturer, Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching, Flinders University, [email protected]

Associate Professor Pablo Munguia, Associate Director, Student Learning Support Service, Flinders University [email protected]


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