Enhancing Student Engagement and Success in Higher Education

  • 2022

  • Service
    Education Services

Designed In:


Together with Swinburne University, The Growth Drivers executed a research project to evaluate the experiences of students. Using human-centred design, we assessed the effectiveness of interventions (activities and services) aimed at supporting student success, and delivered a bespoke framework to ensure the student experience was central in future interventions.

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  • The Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) supported students from low-socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds, offering activities to help them access, participate, complete and succeed in higher education. Following the Job-Ready-Graduates Bill, HEPPP expanded to include students from Indigenous and regional/remote backgrounds, adding further complexity to the evaluation of HEPPP-funded activities. Small samples of quantitative data were demonstrating that Swinburne HEPPP activities contributed in significant ways to retention and/or student success. However, a qualitative understanding was needed to identify what led to this program's effectiveness and inform evaluation methods to improve future activity design and outcomes.

  • Using human-centred design, we uncovered comprehensive insights which shaped a series of Student Archetypes and Journey Maps; enabling practitioners to evaluate and evolve activities to respond to the multi-faceted needs of HEPPP students, and inform Swinburne support services, more broadly. The development of the Swinburne HEPPP Evaluation Framework was underpinned by these outputs, incorporating student, practitioner, institutional and governmental needs. The Framework included program delivery principles and a bespoke program logic model which supported the delivery of the sectoral vision and mission. These components were developed through deep reflection on stakeholder requirements, and are novel in the Australian context.

  • The core challenge in evaluating HEPPP funded activities, is the numerous variables which need to be considered to draw meaningful conclusions about the impact of activities on student outcomes. The tailor-made Evaluation Framework is underpinned by a holistic understanding of the interconnected social, cultural and institutional challenges within student equity in higher education, as well as program practitioner needs. With our bespoke set of requirements and activities, Swinburne HEPPP activity leads can accurately collect data, and measure outcomes and the impact of programs, to inform the improvement of services and design of new activities.

  • Shortly after the project commenced, the COVID Omicron wave swept across Australia. Our teams went into lockdown and pivoted from face-to-face to online collaboration, forcing all research and development to adapt accordingly. Everything was co-developed online with Swinburne, including Interviews, focus groups, activities and reports. The success of the project is largely due to the project management and collaborative spirit between Swinburne and our internal team. Project team members developed a strong bond and met for the first time in-person at a joint presentation, after project conclusion. This collaboration was extended further to our research participants. To engage with integrity and respect, we underwent rigorous ethics processes and practised sensitivity with each cohort. We partnered with relevant organisations (particularly in our interactions with Indigenous groups), providing quality assurance and consultation throughout the project, ensuring we were communicating and translating information accordingly. In each stage, we returned to participants, students and practitioners to build on the design - acting as facilitators for change and champions for collaboration.