[Sub ID 4820] Online mobile goal setting app (Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government)

Submission ID: 4820
Organisation name: Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government
Contact name: Ms Elizabeth Cornforth
State: ACT
Contact email: beta@pmc.gov.au
Contact number: 0262715677

Which priority group of the Try, Test and Learn Fund does your idea support?
Young students at risk of long-term unemployment

What need or issue are you trying to address?
Since 2003, there were 13,400 vocational and university students who started receiving a student payment aged 17 to 19, and then experienced a period of long-term dependence on unemployment payments. Around three-quarters did not complete their study or training.

One detrimental behavioural bias known to affect students is present bias. This is a tendency to attend to urgent rather than the more important tasks when the benefits are not going to be felt for some time yet.

There are a number of ways this affects students, ranging from procrastination on assignments to failing to engage in activities that will improve their career prospects such as engaging with professional development opportunities that would help them to find work following their studies.

Overcoming present bias is an issue that has been explored in the fields of psychology and behavioural economics. Studies have shown that individuals who have difficulty converting good intentions into actions, benefit from setting specific goals [1,2,3], making concrete plans [4,5], publically committing to a course of action [6], setting deadlines [7], receiving feedback [8] and reminder prompts [5]. In applications to education, research suggests that goal setting positively impacts student achievement, perseverance, and self-esteem [9,10]

What is your idea?
Drawing on the above-mentioned research, BETA proposes that an online mobile goal-setting application would help to overcome the behavioural biases identified above. This application would help to align the present activities of tertiary level students with meaningful future goals. The application would be designed to assist students set long-term goals, and then set short-term goals (each fortnight) to keep on track, see progress, and get feedback.

The application would be linked to a platform with social network functionality that allows students to connect with advisers or pick their own mentors who would help them keep to their commitments, provide regular positive feedback, and suggest short-term goals and resources.

The platform can be seeded with useful information – including the current rate of employment for students just finishing the same degree – that can be posted to them in the platform but also sent as reminders and “news” via SMS.

The trial would be delivered to a group of university students following an encouragement design, in which students in the intervention condition would be sent an invitation to participate in the goal-setting application.