[Sub ID 4886] Improving education social networks (Behavioural Insights Team (Australia))

Submission ID: 4886
Organisation name: Behavioural Insights Team (Australia)
Contact name: Dr Veronica Quinn
State: NSW
Contact email: info-aus@bi.team

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?
Seventy five percent of students in the priority group do not complete their studies, with dropout rates being even higher for those from a low SES or rural background, and for those studying part-time or externally. We believe this is due, in large part, to the effects of social and support networks.

The existence of a support network, both inside and outside of the study institution itself, is a key driver of engagement and retention in tertiary study (see Farrington et al, 2012 – http://bit.ly/2lwA54Q). This is supported by key evidence on the drivers of student retention, for example: the student integration model (Tinto, 1975 – http://bit.ly/2l5b25L) and the student attrition model (Bean & Metzner 1985 http://bit.ly/2mqgUYi).

This suggests that those studying part-time or externally may have weaker social networks at the study institution, as they are spending less time on campus and have less opportunity to meet and engage with other students. Similarly, students from low SES or rural backgrounds may feel isolated if they are not surrounded by peers and are studying away from home.

What is your idea?
Building on previous cutting edge work conducted by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) in the UK, including from the Behavioural Research Centre for Adult Skills and Knowledge (ASK), we will deliver a suite of ‘network nudge’ interventions designed to improve the social networks of students both inside and outside of their study institution.

These interventions will focus on:
– strengthening peer networks between students on and off-campus
– leveraging networks with family and friends through study supporter programs
– building networks with external parties such as peer role models and employers

Each of these interventions will use low cost, behaviourally informed text messaging (SMS) to build or strengthen one of these networks in order to improve retention. These interventions will focus on new students from these target groups, where dropouts are highest.

For example, to build networks on campus, we will use SMS interventions to encourage participation in student life (e.g., attendance at clubs and societies fairs, or participation in study groups), and encourage students to build networks with their peers. Research shows that strong social networks on campus and a sense of ‘belonging’ to an institution is key in student retention.

To enhance social supports outside of the institution, we will build on ASK’s successful study supporter trials. This used SMS interventions to encourage those in the students’ personal network to take a more active role in supporting their education. These trials have resulted in increases in course attendance, which is predictive of higher academic achievement.

To improve networks with employers and peer role-models, we will expand on previous work by BIT that uses SMS to connect with students with future employers, peer role models or mentors.