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Supporting engagement and retention of online and blended‑learning students: a qualitative study from an Australian University

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 16:22 authored by Si FanSi Fan, Trimble, A, David KemberDavid Kember, Tracey MuirTracey Muir, Tracy DouglasTracy Douglas, YanJun WangYanJun Wang, Jennifer Masters, Casey MainsbridgeCasey Mainsbridge
Enrolment numbers in online higher education courses have continued to increase over the last decade. The challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have further accelerated the growth in online and blended course oferings. The development of institutional support services, however, does not refect this growth. Many students are not equipped with the skills or given adequate support to engage and succeed in their courses, leading to student disengagement and attrition. This study investigated the perceptions of students in online and blended subjects, regarding both the academic and institutional support they were provided. The research team collected interview data from 41 online and blended-learning students and then analysed these data using an iterative thematic analysis approach. This article introduces the key findings with two models: one presenting support strategies at multiple levels within this university; the other presenting three key elements of subject-level teacher support, which were identifed by the interviewees as the most signifcant, efective, and relevant support mechanism in this context. The findings will inform higher education institutions who aim to engage and support online and blended students better, through an improved understanding of how support is perceived by this student cohort. This study was conducted at one Australian university; however, the findings are relevant to higher education institutions in other countries that strive to bring about positive experiences and enhance retention rates for online and blended students.


Publication title

The Australian Educational Researcher






Faculty of Education


Springer Netherlands

Place of publication


Rights statement

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2023

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Higher education; Pedagogy

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