The approach to the project will be collaborative and will provide local support to each institution through distributed leadership. The design incorporates mixed methods, and both quantitative and qualitative data will be collected and analysed in stages 1–3 to provide a robust evidence base to develop the deliverables. The project timeline shows project activities and deliverables, across the 18 months of the project.

Project Stages

Stage 0: Project infrastructure and set up

This stage includes ethics applications, agreements and protocols. This stage will commence as soon as practical after notification that the project application has been successful.

Stage 1: Analysis and meta-analysis to reveal what is known

The first stage consists of an analysis and meta-analysis of existing national and university data [1] to identify trends that encapsulate the unique features of the regional student experience. Using Kahu’s (2013) framework as a tool to organise data, the antecedent and consequential factors influencing the student experience will be identified. Trends in the data about the unique and shared features of the student experience at regional universities will emerge from this analysis and
inform subsequent phases of the project.

Stage 2: Case studies to evidence the current interactions that influence student experience

This second stage will consist of a series of exploratory case studies for each of the participating institutions, with themes and topics for exploration drawn from Stage 1. Each case study will profile the characteristics of each institution to provide context. A case protocol derived from the research questions and the outcomes of Phase 1 will be adopted to ensure consistency between the case sites. Quality of the case study will be assured through the use of a standard case protocol and by independent oversight by a partner team member. Each university will be responsible for developing their institutional case study. A paired peer-based quality assurance approach will be used to ensure that data collection and analysis is as objective as possible, with each university moderating and verifying the outcomes of their case study with a project team member from a different university.

Qualitative data will be collected through semi-structured individual or small group (to be determined based on the findings emerging from stage 1) interviews with staff and students. Staff identified as ‘owners’ of innovative practice will be purposely identified and invited to participate in the interviews. Groups of students who represent diverse cohorts of students (to be identified following stage 1) will be purposely identified and invited to participate in the interviews. Interview schedules of semi-structured questions will be developed from the patterns that emerged from stage 1 and will be used to guide the interviews. The aim is to conduct at least 80 interviews to develop the case studies. This will consist of 10–12 interviews per university (5–6 with members of staff and 5–6 with students). Interviews will be recorded and transcribed before being analysed using nVivo software to identify themes and allow cross- case analysis. The outcome of the case studies will be the identification of the C21st practices already in place in regional universities that address the unique features of the student experience at that institution and the identification of emerging trends. The case studies will allow examples of practice to be captured from the participating institutions to demonstrate the spectrum of experiences and practices. The case protocol will ensure comparability of the cases and provide a common framework for analysing the data.

Stage 3: Cross-case analysis to forecast emerging trends and innovations that enrich and strengthen the C21st student experience

Cross-case analysis will enable the project team to identify the combination of factors that contribute to the student experience in two or more cases, to compare cases, and to identify relationships and themes, commonalities and differences among the various cases[2]. An allowance of time will be made in the project plan to gather further qualitative data at this stage to confirm trends if necessary. Unique, innovative and creative institutional practices arising from individual or multiple institutions will be highlighted in practice vignettes. The outcomes emerging from the cross-case analysis will inform the series of recommendations.

Stage 4: Website, report and national forum

In the final stage the deliverables from stages 1, 2 and 3 will be consolidated on the website as a suite of easy-access, reusable resources. The comprehensive report will be finalised, OLT reporting completed and a national forum conducted.

 


[1]
At this stage the scope, extent, attributes and accessibility of existing corporate data sources relevant to the regional student experience is unknown.

[2]
Khan, S. &VanWynsberghe, R. (2008). Cultivating the Under-Mined: Cross Case Analysis as Knowledge Mobilisation. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, Vol 9, No 1. url: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/334/729