Just when I needed you most: Establishing on-demand learning support in a regional university
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AbstractThis article discusses the experiences and challenges of introducing a third-party learning support provider into the teaching and learning culture at Southern Cross University (SCU), a regional university with campus locations in New South Wales and Queensland. The provider was engaged to extend online study support after-hours to first year students to complement the on-campus and online academic skills consultations available during business hours. The case study covers a 2015 pilot, a wider roll-out in 2016, and finally, a 2017 university-wide access via the intranet as well as through nominated units. The project team collaborated, planned, and prepared for adding third-party student support with specific strategies used to implement institutional cultural change. The case study offers implications for practice and policy across the higher education sector through the lessons learned, including the need for a complementarity of services approach with existing student services, a team-based strategic approach with a provider representative, and the benefits from open and positive communication. The partnership between SCU and the third-party provider evolved to the mutual benefit of both organisations. Students received support and feedback when they needed it most, academic staff revitalised coursework, and the third-party provider fine-tuned a targeted service for the institution. Implications for practice or policy: Situate the academic skills support services provided in-house and the service provided by the third-party provider as complementary to each other. Re-enforce this complementarity in all communication with students and academic staff. Adopt a team-based approach to planning the introduction and implementation of a third-party provider’s services. Utilise the provider’s strengths, such as data generation and reporting, that enable student usage information about the after-hours service to be disseminated across the university.