Studies in Learning, Evaluation, Innovation and Development > Vol. 4, No. 2 (2007)

Making students AWARE: an online strategy for students given academic warning

Janet A Taylor, University of Southern Queensland
Jill Lawrence, University of Southern Queensland


Each year universities deal with large numbers of students who have unsatisfactory academic performance or who are asked to ‘Show Cause’ why they should not be forcibly withdrawn. Although student and learning support sections of universities can assist students on an individual or group bases, most are usually left to their own devices as to how they respond to such academic warnings. Few resources are available for distance or online students, or for students who do not want to be part of a formal interview process, if one exists. This paper describes the design, development and evaluation of AWARE, an online Academic Warning and Reflection Exercise. This resource allows students, through a series of focused questions, to reflect on the reasons for their poor performance, investigate strategies for improvement from a bank of online resources and to develop a personalised action plan for success. Underpinning AWARE is a theoretical framework drawn from literature on retention in Higher Education and critical discourse and cross cultural communication theories. AWARE has been widely utilized by students over 2005-6, and preliminary evaluations show that students appreciate its availability and anonymity. AWARE is now an integral part of the administrative and support processes to assist students who are on a pathway to withdrawal. The statistics gathered from AWARE provide the university with useful insights into students’ perceptions of why they have not performed and is now one of the university’s key retention strategies. Although AWARE was initially designed as a last resort strategy, it also may also have a role in early intervention for distance education students.

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