Graduating from university is a critical step to starting a career. University students can risk transitioning into unemployment or long-term welfare dependence if they do not complete their studies. Students who experience disadvantage are particularly at risk. Strategies to help university students graduate can help achieve positive individual, educational and broader economic outcomes.
BETA identified two key behavioural insights related to university non-completion rates for disadvantaged students: (i) social groups impact feelings of belonging (ii) and negative attributions affect resilience.
Supported with funding for the Strengthening Student Resilience project from the Try, Test and Learn Fund – an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Social Services (DSS), BETA designed a mobile app, informed by those behavioural insights, called Grok. The aim of Grok was to improve university grades and increase completion rates by growing student resilience.
BETA conducted a randomised controlled trial with Grok during the first semester of 2020 at two Australian universities with 4,463 student downloads. BETA evaluated the impact of access to Grok on academic performance, completion rates, wellbeing and feelings of belonging at university.
No significant differences were found in any of the outcomes, for both disadvantaged students and non-disadvantaged students. Student engagement with Grok appeared to be a key issue, as download numbers were high but ongoing app usage was low. For the students who did complete Grok activities, there was no measurable change in their wellbeing or completion rates, but the feedback from interviews and surveys was predominately positive.