Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Embedding Support for Students Transitioning into Higher Education: Evaluation of a New Model

Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Embedding Support for Students Transitioning into Higher Education: Evaluation of a New Model

Article excerpt

Introduction

The issue of how best to assist students in making a successful transition from vocational education (VET) to higher education (HE) is growing in urgency as more students consider pathway options and more HE providers formalise credit arrangements within their degrees. For institutes that deliver both VET and HE it is also a fundamental component of their business model. As a result, practitioners are required to balance the conflicted needs of students who on the one hand bargain for the best possible credit arrangements for their VET qualifications whilst at the same time, might not have developed the academic capabilities to succeed in HE. The challenges students are likely to face are outlined in current literature. They range from different approaches to learning (Ambrose et al. 2013), digital literacy and conceptual analysis skills (Millman 2013), through to understanding of the amount of time required for HE study (Scutter et al. 2011). IfHE pathways are to be truly successful the needs of articulating students must be addressed and incorporated into the development and delivery of degree programs.

The Learning Academic Skills Support (LASS) program was developed for students articulating from diploma and advanced diploma qualifications into the Bachelor of Hospitality Management (BHM) at Holmesglen Institute in Melbourne, in partnership with the University of Canberra in 2014. The program reflects a tailored response to concerns about the progression and retention rates of articulating students. It brings together key stakeholders in the student experience and focuses attention on providing holistic support to students at critical points during their first semester. The LASS project, as outlined in this paper, comprises two components: the development and implementation of the LASS program and, evaluation of its effectiveness from both the student perspective, as well as, progression and retention rates.

This paper provides an overview of the project. Consideration is given to current literature regarding articulation pathways from VET to HE within Australia, with particular focus on what strategies have proven successful and what effective approaches to support might look like. An evaluation of the LASS program as it was delivered in 2014 provides insight into what the program achieved and how it might be improved. Whilst specific achievements, namely, increases in both progression and retention rates amongst students who articulated into the BHM in 2014 provide optimistic indicators for future development of VET to HE pathways. Lastly, the research process and the approach to research as a form of professional learning is also considered within this paper, with a view to initiating further discussion of how best to enlarge the academic experience of HE staff in institutes that offer both VET and HE.

Background

The BHM was delivered for the first time in 2013. AU enrolled students that year were articulating students, entering with either one or 1.5 years credit, based on their successful completion of either a Diploma or Advanced Diploma of Hospitality respectively. This scenario highlighted concerns about the readiness of such students for the academic rigour of HE.

A substantial amount of time and effort went into providing the necessary support services to accommodate the students' needs. Various scaffolding strategies were considered in an effort to ease the transition for students. A compulsory bridging program was proposed as a possible option for students entering the BHM. However based on the large number of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) students and the late arrival into the country of international students, it was determined that students would benefit more from ongoing, embedded support applied with a 'just-in-time' approach during their first semester in HE.

It was this scenario that set the tone for the development and evaluation of the LASS program. …

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