Deakin University

Engaging every learner 

Overview

Each year, 2,100 students enroll in Dr. Jaclyn Broadbent’s first-year blended Health Behaviour class. It’s a daunting number for any professor—but Dr. Broadbent of Deakin University in Australia, isn’t just any lecturer. Although her students come from four different campuses and represent varying backgrounds and skill sets, she’s determined to get through to each and every one.

Challenge

Each Student Must Feel Important

Dr. Broadbent is one of those teachers you never forget. You can tell she’s passionate about her subject and that inspires you. But there’s more to it—you also feel like she cares.

Her secret? Dr. Broadbent really does care. A large cohort like Health Behaviour only intensifies her need to ensure that no one is left out or left behind. “I want my students to feel a connection,” explains Dr. Broadbent, “and the main challenge in connecting is making them feel like they’re important.”

An Equal Chance to Succeed

Getting to know her students was complicated by their diversity. While most were in their first year, they came from 43 different degree programs, displaying a wide range of academic skills, interests, and pre-existing knowledge.

With so many students starting from different places, Dr. Broadbent was concerned with equalizing education. “Everyone deserves the same chance to succeed,” she says. “That means providing an enriching, stimulating, and personalized learning experience to each student, despite their vast differences.”

Timely Feedback Was Lacking

Providing timely, quality feedback heavily influences student engagement and outcomes, yet the sheer number of students was preventing Dr. Broadbent from reaching them individually when it mattered most.

“In our students’ exit surveys we were consistently getting comments about how frustrated they were with the lack of timely feedback,” she explains. “And I understand that. How do we expect them to make progress when we don’t tell them how they’re doing gradually and meaningfully throughout the subject?”

When Deakin switched to the Brightspace learning platform, Dr. Broadbent saw opportunities for change: “I was so excited about all of the little things I could do and how I might enhance education.”

Solution

Students Feel Acknowledged and Valued

It’s easy to feel disconnected when you’re one amongst hundreds of students. To meet the issue head on, Dr. Broadbent enables the Intelligent Agents tool, an automated functionality in the Brightspace platform that uses event triggers to help teachers scale personalization. “If students don’t log onto the platform for two weeks they receive an email,” she says. “It’s just-in-time attention that aims to give them a connection with the School of Psychology. Each email is personalized and comes from me, and it’s all automated so I don’t have to monitor students or manually send emails to 500 students.”

Grade time is a key moment in a student-teacher relationship. With the help of the Intelligent Agents tool, Dr. Broadbent also maximizes opportunities for support and motivation. Struggling students receive an email outlining what they can do to improve next time. High achievers get congratulations and those who are improving receive encouragement to keep going.

“Sometimes students just need someone to notice,” she says. “It’s so rewarding for me when I have been able to target someone possibly ‘at risk’ of dropping out early in the semester, and then reading their assessments pieces at the end when they’ve come so far.”

Meaningful Feedback When It’s Needed

Perhaps the most impressive of her innovations is the creation of the Model Demonstrate, a method of feedback supported by Brightspace platform tools. “My goal with Demonstrate is to increase the level of feedback students receive and improve their critical thinking,” she says.

Now students receive feedback two weeks after submitting an assignment and at least a week before their next assignment is due. Individual assignments submitted through Brightspace ePortfolio Presentations receive audio-video feedback using the Brightspace platform audio and video messaging tools in order to draw out each student’s best possible performance on subsequent assessments.

According to Dr. Broadbent, it’s having the desired effect: “I absolutely love the audio-video tool for personalizing the experience. Some of the feedback about it from students is mind-blowing. They say it feels like someone is there talking to them about their assignment instead of scribbling notes all over their work and it makes them want to try harder.”


“I appreciate how collaborative D2L is—they’re so responsive to my needs. We work in a continual process of revision on the Brightspace platform, always thinking about what’s working, what could be improved, and what additional tools are necessary. It’s refreshing to have a technology partner that’s driving innovation forward, tailoring education to the needs of students and teachers alike.”
Dr. Jaclyn Broadbent, Lecturer in Health Psychology, Deakin University

Result

Dramatic Evidence of Forging Connections

Despite the enormous class size, students love their Health Behaviour class—a fact that’s reflected in their professor evaluations.  Amazingly, students score Dr. Broadbent at 4.72/5 compared to the university average of 3.9/5.[1]

High Rate of Retention

The best measure of Dr. Broadbent’s success is not the awards she’s won—although there have been plenty—but rather the impact she’s having on her students. One of the best measures of that is retention. Since being on the Brightspace platform, retention rates sit at an impressive 90%.[2]

[1] Results courtesy of Deakin University
[2] Ibid.