The Southern Cross Model: an overview

Centre for Teaching and Learning


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Teaching and Learning in the Southern Cross Model

Background to the Southern Cross Model

Southern Cross University was established to promote scholarship, research, free inquiry, the interaction of research and teaching, and academic excellence (Southern Cross University Act 1993, 6[1]).

In 2019 the Southern Cross University Council endorsed a new approach to bring a more explicit focus on delivering outstanding teaching. The University identified the need to strive toward achieving curriculum reform, distinction and uplift.

Dialogue began about the effectiveness of a range of teaching and learning approaches. A period of consultation began with Faculties, Colleges, professional work units, current students and potential future students from the broader community. From these discussions emerged the imperative to further explore innovative approaches to higher education teaching and learning with a view to developing the new Southern Cross Model.

Academic, teaching delivery and operational design teams made up of staff members from across the University reviewed a number of approaches to educational design and delivery in Australia and overseas, and made a series of recommendations which ultimately came to form the basis of the Southern Cross Model.

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Professional Learning for the Southern Cross Model
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The Southern Cross Model Key Features

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Teaching and Learning in the Southern Cross Model

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Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the Southern Cross Model

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Student Feedback, Staff Experiences and Results

The Southern Cross Model Key Features

The Southern Cross Model aligns with the University’s strategic plan’s focus on outstanding teaching, inspired student experience and our ethos “for what matters”. The Model aims to provide a more focused and immersive way for students to learn, and a more engaged and rewarding learning experience for students and staff.

The model is focused and flexible:

The academic year is divided into 6 Terms. Each Term is delivered over 7 weeks, with 6 weeks of teaching and a 7th week in each Term which may be used for study, review and assessment. A 2 week break occurs between Terms.

Full-time students enrol in a maximum of 2 units per Term. Students are not required to study in all 6 Terms. Typically a full-time student will study four Terms and complete 8 units a year. This means there are fewer units and fewer assignments and exams for a student to juggle at one time.

The model enables active engagement:

The new Southern Cross Model offers our students a guided and active learning experience, whether they are enrolled online or on-campus. Students will have access to a comprehensive suite of online materials at any time during their studies.

Students are engaged in two forms of guided and active learning – self access learning which is delivered in interactive and guided modules, and class learning that focus on active, guided experiences that extend and apply the skills and knowledge covered in the self-access modules.

Introducing The Southern Cross Model

The Southern Cross Model is an exciting and distinctive new way of teaching and learning.
The Southern Cross Model is flexible and designed to give you more control over when you study.
Instead of completing units over 12-week sessions, you can study over shorter, six-week terms.
This means that you can determine the intensity of your studies.
You can do up to two units at a time in each term, or you can choose to do just one unit at a time if that suits you best.
One of the great things about the Southern Cross Model is that your learning is focused.
Instead of juggling four units at once – and often four essays, reports or exams at once – you will be able to focus your time and energy on just one or two assessments at a time. This will help you succeed in your studies.
In the Southern Cross Model, the teaching methods put your learning first.
All students will be able to access online learning materials that are on-demand, interactive and give you feedback to help you gauge your learning.
You will also benefit from active, guided class experiences, both online and off. In class, you will apply new knowledge and skills to real-world problems and questions.
The Southern Cross Model is designed to help you achieve your goals and work towards the future you want in a more flexible, focused, and learning-centred environment.
We look forward to welcoming students to the Southern Cross Model and seeing students succeed and shine at university and beyond.

Study

You can study over shorter 6 week terms.

Focus

One of the great things about the Southern Cross Model is that your learning is focused.

Flexible

The Southern Cross Model is flexible and designed to give you more control over when you study.

Teaching

In the Southern Cross Model, the teaching methods put your learning first.

Teaching and Learning in the Southern Cross Model

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The Southern Cross Model uses guided, active learning experiences in both self-access and class learning.

In guided learning, students advance their knowledge and skills with the support of others. Guided learning comes in a range of learning activities including:

  • Curated material with opportunities for practice
  • Modelling practice
  • Joint problem-solving or questioning.

Guided learning can be used in classes online or on campus, as well as in online self-study or through using self-paced learning resources.

Self-access learning in the Southern Cross Model is a guided learning experience facilitated through University learning sites. It affords students the opportunity to progress through learning material at a time and pace that is right for them within each study period. The learning content is sequenced by academics to build students’ knowledge and skills and is bundled into media-rich learning packages called modules.

Self-access learning is distinct from didactic instruction characterised by unidirectional interaction between more and less knowledgeable interlocutors, as in lecturing or simply giving students access to readings via a learning site. In the Southern Cross Model content is accompanied by interactive learning activities which are designed by academics to require responses from the learner (e.g. problems). These activities should be designed to help students gauge their understanding of the material and help academics assess student learning engagement and progress.

Class learning in the Southern Cross Model is a scheduled learning experience which happens either on campus or online in real-time. It is facilitated through lesson plans to ensure a consistent quality of delivery across locations and modalities (online/ on-campus). Whether studying online or on-campus, students will have the opportunity to routinely participate in scheduled class learning. Class learning in the Southern Cross Model breaks down the distinction between lecture and tutorial, it involves the engaging presentation of chunks of content to which students are required to actively respond.

Class teaching requires interaction and opportunities for academics to monitor and assess student engagement and development of their skills, knowledge and application of those.

In the Southern Cross Model, all students can attend scheduled classes, regardless of their mode of enrolment. A single weighted unit in the Southern Cross Model will typically be delivered via up to 3 hours of class learning and up to 20 hours self-access learning per week. This may differ in units with specific requirements.

In class, students will be engaged in guided, active learning. They should no longer only listen and note-take, as in the traditional lecture mode.  Rather they will be engaged in active, interactive and dialogue-based learning.

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the Southern Cross Model

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The Southern Cross Model will be explored and evaluated through a range of scholarship of teaching and learning projects.

These projects will examine outcomes for students in the Model and explore the approaches taken during the Model’s implementation.

A number of projects are in process as of June 2021.

Success, achievement and the commencing student experience: Exploring the impact of the Southern Cross Model

Investigators: Professor Thomas Roche, Professor Erica Wilson, Dr Liz Goode

Aims: This project will explore the impact of a new approach to teaching and learning, the Southern Cross Model, on the success, retention, grades and satisfaction of commencing students. The project will compare unit performance data from the session-based delivery model with data from units delivered in the new Model. Further analysis will be undertaken to identify any contrasting outcomes for students from equity groups or by study mode or load.

Investigators: Dr Liz Goode, Dr Suzi Syme, Dr Johanna Nieuwoudt

Aims: This project will explore the impact of the Southern Cross Model (SCM) on the success and experiences of enabling students in the Preparing for Success Program. The project will draw on unit performance data, learning site analytics and student focus groups to examine:

  1. how student success, grades, satisfaction and engagement in the SCM compares to these measures in the traditional 12-week model.
  2. students’ perceptions of the Model’s pedagogical approach in the context of enabling education, including interactive self-access modules, active class learning, and scaffolded assessments.

Investigators: Dr Kerrie Stimpson, Dr Suzi Syme, Dr Liz Goode

Aims: This project aims to investigate student attitudes, beliefs and experiences in an enabling mathematics unit that is designed to introduce novice non-traditional university students to mathematical concepts and applied problem solving via a six-week delivery model. The project will examine student attitudes, beliefs and experiences in relation to:

  1. their mathematical skills and relating these to real-world problems
  2. module design and what they found engaging and what they found challenging, with a particular focus on the impact of the new Southern Cross Model on learning experience and academic success.

A ‘Trojan horse’ approach to enhancing commencing undergraduate students’ academic literacies in a six-week delivery mode

Investigators: Dr Liz Goode, Dr Johanna Nieuwoudt, Professor Thomas Roche

Aims:  This project will investigate the efficacy of two foundational units designed to introduce new university students to academic enquiry and communication via the Southern Cross Model. The project will explore:

  1. how effectively a 'Trojan Horse' approach to academic literacy development engages commencing students and enhances their academic competence and confidence.
  2. students' perceptions of a six-week delivery and principles of active, media-rich teaching and learning.

Investigators: Dr Lachlan Forsyth, Dr Mieke Witsel, Dr Jenelle Benson, Dr Polly Lai, Dr Jo Munn

Aims: This project seeks to answer the question: What are the success factors for harnessing an interdisciplinary design studio to support academic development in active learning design? Active learning is an important component of the teaching and learning that underpins the Southern Cross Model. The project will utilise a mixed-methods approach drawing on data from surveys, workshops, online communications, participant journals and developed resources. Participants will include a multi-disciplinary group of designers, including academic curriculum designers, educational designers and digital designers.

Exploring the learning experience of international students enrolled in the Southern Cross Model through semi-guided interviews

Investigators: Jacky Zhang, Robyn Cetinich

Aims: This study aims to explore student perceptions of the new Southern Cross Model (SCM), taking into account study-work-life balance, support seeking behaviour, wellbeing and overall satisfaction with the learning experience for the purpose of providing appropriate and timely support for international students enrolled in the SCM in future terms. 

Student Feedback, Staff Experiences and Results

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Preliminary data on the impact of the Southern Cross Model have begun to emerge.
Early insights are captured in this presentation, featuring both staff and students.

As additional data becomes available it will be included here.

The recorded webinar below provides student feedback during a Talking Teaching webinar series held by The Centre for Teaching and Learning at SCU.

Watch recording - The new SCU Model: Lived experiences of teachers and students   

What students are saying

The following feedback responses were received from B Business & Enterprise students (BBusEnt student) and Preparing for Sucess Program students (PSP student)

"Better than longer, drawn out subjects. A bit more focused on one thing which then can be used universally across other subjects." (BBusEnt student)

"The 6 weeks, although full-on, felt easier to manage and control tasks. It felt better getting things done quicker." (BBusEnt student)

"2 subjects over 6 weeks is the best workload experience I’ve ever had." (BBusEnt student)

"Found the workload hard to adjust to but once I did, it was more manageable." (BBusEnt student)

"Intense, but is achievable." (BBusEnt student)

"I was relieved because I remember trying to juggle four subjects was hard. So only focusing on two was a big relief." (PSP student)

"Having a focus point and knowing that that's where I've gottago, I think having more subjects on top of that would possibly come crashing down around me pretty quickly." (PSP student)

The following feedback responses were received from B Business & Enterprise students (BBusEnt student) and Preparing for Sucess Program students (PSP student).

"Yeah, I think just the fact that it's done, tick, I'm onto the next one. Now I'm going to break until third of July or whatever it is and yeah. I can do this." (BBusEnt student)

"Beingable to do the activities within [the modules] felt in interactive, it felt like good practice to give you confidence…. I think having that was a confidence booster too, that you could give things a go in your own time as well." (BBusEnt student)

"I find it motivating… you've like, got to get it in. There's no time for procrastination." (PSP student)

"I honestly prefer the six weeks. It gives you a little break in between to kind of recollect yourself and then attack the next two topics." (PSP student)

The following feedback responses were received from B Business & Enterprise students (BBusEnt student) and Preparing for Sucess Program students (PSP student).

"I think it was kind of like a breath of fresh air because you're not just reading and reading and reading, you're kind of doing something different and engaging a different part of your brain." (BBusEnt student)

"I really enjoyed the modules for this unit. Just the little things where every so often, there’s like a little activity where you got to try and match the word to the right context and just little things like that to really reinforce what you're learning, I think that they’re really good." (BBusEnt student)

"I feel like it was a bit of a mixture of everything, having all these different resources together as well as having that feedback, it helped piece all the bits together and help us gain a deeper understanding." (BBusEnt student)

"Yeah it keeps you engaged, like works different parts of your brain, keeps you sort of awake a bit to work through it." (PSP student) 

"I think the activities were really good… I think it kind of builds you to know where you need to focus." (PSP student) 

The Southern Cross Model student experience: Tayla

My name's Tayla. I'm studying the Diploma of Civil Construction and I'm an online student here at Southern Cross University.

I'm using my diploma as a pathway to get into the Bachelor of Engineering Systems so that I can do Civil Engineering as my specialisation.

The Southern Cross model is changing the way that students are able to study. So instead of you do doing your 13, 12-week session, you actually finish your unit in that first six-week block and then you have a break and then you do your next and your next.

You can take a term off if you need to or you can study more full-time.

It just allows room for you to just be a person.

So, I've already completed two of the units in this new study mode and I love it. It's so good. The teachers are just so on top of it and it's a new thing for everybody, but they're really, really good with it. Everyone's so understanding with it. And while you go a lot faster over that six-week course, it doesn't actually feel difficult. It doesn't feel like you're doing more work. It's just really, really well laid out.

And it gives you a lot more opportunity to study one thing and more in-depth because you're able to study more in a shortened period of time and actually still absorb all of it really well. So instead of doing four subjects at a time you can do two. Which means that you actually pay more attention in your subjects. It means that there's less subjects to divide your attention between. It's easier to concentrate on your assessment tasks and keep track of them and everything like that. It's so much easier as a student.

You can really see the finish line. It really motivates you to stay focused and just it's much easier to stay on topic.

So, I was studying the 12-week model in other universities and it wasn't going well, really wasn't suiting me.

But since coming to Southern Cross, I've gone immediately into this new model and getting high distinctions. And it's a relief and it's incredible. It's so nice.

The Southern Cross Model student experience: Davi

My name is Davi Martins Algranti. I'm originally from Brazil, and I'm studying business and enterprise at Southern Cross University.

I've been always interested in business, as I want to be a businessman in the future.

And when I finished my high school, I came to Australia to learn English.

Then I took the IELTS course. Southern Cross University offered me a good scholarship.

So, studying in six weeks terms helped me a lot because we have just two units to study, so most of the time you're really focused in these two units and you are not stressed.

I can put everything together and summarise all the learnings that I have got in six weeks for my final assessments.

So, studying in short terms is giving me the possibility to organise my time, focus on my assessments in the right time, and at the same moment, work a little bit.

And I can be focused and maintain a good experience and maintain good grades.

Having a six-week term, it's a really good way to deliver education for us because, you can be focused and work through your assessments that time and work hard, but then when you have a two-week break, you can relax and recover your energy to come back motivated.

I like to do sports related with the nature. So, here on the Gold Coast, as we have the beach, I can skate along the beach and enjoy a beautiful place. At the same moment, when I'm surfing, I can be in the ocean and be connected with nature.

The teachers, they always support us with all the questions that we have, and they teach in a way that it's fun to learn.

Their passion, you can feel this. They love the job that they are doing.

I feel like studying in short terms, it's the best thing I've ever done, and I would strongly recommend for someone who wants to have a good experience studying and get new motivations to study in short terms because yeah, you will feel good and you can balance your time to work, study and have a good lifestyle.

Staff experiences

The Southern Cross Model, Teaching and Learning Experience: James Carlopio

Hello My name is James Carlopio and I've been Southern Cross for about three or four years now, and I've been involved most recently in developing two brand new courses from scratch in the six-week mode.

Can you describe your approach to the unit modules?

We're trying to make the courses much more active rather than passive learning. We're trying to reduce the amount of reading. So in all three of the courses that I've been involved in, there's just there's no textbooks. We have very few but key essential readings. And even those are much more applied, like from a Harvard Business Review article.

Can you describe your approach to class learning in the model?

We've divided the class, learning opportunities into a few different modes, one is, of course, the student has to do the online learning and then when they're done with that and I always request that they do that before they come to the classroom bits. we've got two sessions every week and there's a one hour session and it's sometimes followed literally a back to back with a two hour session or there's a little bit of a gap in between the two. And in the first one hour session, we tend to focus on overview of the unit content to make sure that students understand that content is out of questions. That's the time for them to ask the questions. If there’s something I want to clarify that I couldn't do in writing, because it's so much easier sometimes to talk about things like this, and that the second two hour is truly, totally active.

What principles were important for designing assessments in the new model?

Assessment designed, obviously, when you're designing, of course, is a huge part of it, and we've got a distinctly different, I believe, a view around assessment now with the new model. every component builds on and feeds back and feeds forward to every other component. The end product in the final assessment is a real business plan that people should be able to use if they were really trying to start a business, because not everybody is. Some people just make up a hypothetical and some people starting their careers. But for the people who are really trying to start a business, the idea is to come up with a true business plan at the end. the feedback on the assessment is that they love that cumulative effect.

How was the student engagement in the model?

I have always been sensitive to the fact that students need a voice and, you know, you have to get the group talking and you have to get individuals engaged in asking questions and thinking.

I always think about the fact that the learning actually the most important person in the room is not the person at the front of the room. The learning happens in the seats in the room. I that's where the action is happening.

If they're not engaged, they're not listening, if they're not engaged, they're not talking and it's just not working for anybody.

What did you enjoy about teaching in the new model?

I love the sprint nature of the six week course that you can get just since me. And I think it suits the times. And that's what the students say. You know, it's the way we're used to working. It's the way we're used to living right now. We get in, we get engaged, we do something, and then we move on to something else. And that's that, I think the biggest the biggest change in my mentality, the biggest point about the whole system that fits with the world today, the way people process information today, the way young people want to have university education fit into their lives.

That, to me, is the most impressive.

And of course, that's hard. You know, if you've ever done real world sprinting, you're exhausted at the end of that that 100 metre dash, 200 metre dash. You're tired at the end of that that six week period. So, you know, you have to learn the skill of recuperating and rejuvenating during those two weeks. And I've heard lots of students talk about, oh, good, I'm going to take a couple of weeks off now and, you know, go away and rest because I've got to come back and get right into it again for the next six weeks.

So those are the biggest things that come to my mind.

The Southern Cross Model, Teaching and Learning Experience: Liz Goode

Hi, my name's Dr Liz Goode, currently working as a teaching scholar in the Academic Portfolio office. But my usual role is teaching in the preparing success program at SCU College.

How did you approach designing unit modules for the Southern Cross Model?

So the unit modules for me needed to do a public key things as a priority. They needed to be focused and aligned very closely around specific learning outcomes and the concepts and skills required for any upcoming assessment task, so that alignment and the way the modules would sequence and scaffolded was really important.

And another thing I had front of mind was the need to invite students to do things at regular points in the modules. So I tried to develop a rhythm with this. That rhythm of just not letting text, videos or whatever it might be stretch on for too long without giving students an opportunity to do something meaningful or useful. I found that really important as I was putting together the modules.

What did students like about the unit Modules?

Students liked the variety of ways to interact with content. They liked that it wasn't just reading, but they could watch things. They could listen to things they could do, little activities that varied. Maybe there was like a quick quiz or drag and drop or a poll that allowed them to see their peers’ responses, too.

They also like that doing those kinds of things build their confidence. So it was an opportunity to gain familiarity with terms and concepts, to test out and try things, to go back and review when they needed, and to see what they're needed to focus on as well. So things that they wanted to follow up in class or to understand better. They got a sense of that from working through the modules, and they found that really helpful and really useful when they came to class, they felt like they already had a bit of a leg up and they enjoyed working through the interactive modules as well.

How did you approach to class learning in the model?

So class learning for me was principally about extending and expanding and going a little bit further than the modules to apply, to discuss, to investigate, in order problem solve the kinds of things that the modules covered.

So it's an active space where I feel students need to be doing activities that are meaningful and connect really clearly with the assessments and the learning outcomes. So you learned about this in the modules or you need to do this in your assessments. Let surface some of the questions or uncertainties that you might have. Let's talk about it together. Let's practise. Let's apply what you're learning in really relevant and useful ways.

What did students like about the classes?

In my conversations with students, they have highlighted a couple of things that they did like about the classes. Probably the main one is for social aspect of the classes. So they really enjoyed being able to be around and speak with other students, whether that was online or in a face to face classroom. So to see where others are out, to get to know each other and to do things like brainstorm in groups.

They really enjoy being able to discuss and analyse and make a start on assessment tasks and get clarification about the assessments. So what's expected, whether they're interpreting the task are regularly, whether they're on track, I found, was really valued by students as well.

What did you enjoy about teachi​ng in the new model?

I really enjoy the structure of it so that students have a variety of opportunities for learning that really complement each other. So it's not all about the modules, it's not all about the classes or all about the assessments, but it's all of those things working together. I really enjoyed that. I think that's a really powerful combination that has the potential to debate a learning partnership. So it allows the student, tutor the institution to work together to achieve a really great learning experience.

I've enjoyed the aspect of the new model.

Overall, what do you think about the new model compared to the 12-week model?

I think that the new model is really powerful and I keep coming back to that word powerful the way the interactive, self access modules and the classes where you apply and extend and work with peers and well designed scaffolded assessment tasks and work together to facilitate learning in ways that build students confidence and sense of achievement. I think that's really powerful. So that active, very aligned pedagogy has the potential, I think, to be immensely effective and I really like the more focused nature of it. I remember as a student myself, we often sound it quite overwhelming to be mentally pulled in so many different directions and for each unit to be such a long haul that it became quite exhausting, whereas the shorter, sharper, but deeper experience in the new model and I think the experiences of some of the pilot courses is showing us that learning outcomes in these courses aren't compromised.

Students are learning and achieving in ways that are just as strong or stronger than they did in a 12 or 13 week session.

So these are really positive signs and as an educator, I found it really exciting to witness and be a part of it. So I think the new model is a really positive step.

The Southern Cross Model, Teaching and Learning Experience: Robert Rollins

Hi, my name is Robert Rollin, and I've been lecturing in the Department of Engineering. I've been teaching in different courses starting from the associate degree, the Bachelor of Engineering Systems and the two masters degree that we offer at SCU.

So the associate degree in particular was designed to be offered under the new SCU model for the so all the new units and the associate degree in a few units from engineering that we converted were all offered straight out as under the new SCU model.

What do your units look like in the Southern Cross Model?

So I think the you the students like that, it's brief little  capsules of content and the and in my units, I did use a portfolio approach for assessment.

We used three case studies, so we use case studies from the industry. So they're a so this is engineering. So we had a small land development in Lismore that we're using it as an example. We're using the bridge designs from Kyogle Council and as a big project, give them the appreciation of a large project.

We would use the Coffs Harbour bypass on the Pacific highway.

I think the portfolio assessment worked well in terms of manageable, that every week did a little bit of work that helps them with their final assessments. And I think the one place I still need to improve is interlinking all of this, that the exercises in the unit content are better link to the story and to the assessment.

How did students respond to the assessments?

So the now the student feedback on the assessment with was, that they really enjoyed the real life examples and they also enjoyed getting to practise every week on the assessments, the portfolio approach, the portfolio approach also promoted interaction between the students.

So they were responsible to submit their answer every week. And then they also were required to critique each other's answers. So basically peer review and learning as a group. So they also enjoyed that. And so I think it really helps. Some of the people with more experience would share their knowledge so people with less experience would gain from that.

What did you learn while teaching in the Southern Cross Model?

A big difference for me is that at the end you need to be very well organised for the grading.

So that means that when you start planning your assessment, you need to think about I'm going to be grading in week six or six or at the beginning week seven, and I need to turn around my grades very quickly. So your assessments have to be planned to facilitate that. I've used a portfolio approach which helps with that approach. So I get to look at their work every week and then at the end it's a bit quicker to mark their final report.

What other advice would you give to colleagues about teaching in the new model?

I think my one best advice pieces of advice would be not to be afraid to ask for help, either from CTL or from some of your peers. I'm a big believer in teamwork and working as a team to deliver a better product. Yeah, I tried to reach out early, make sure CTL knows your needs as early as possible so they can plan it and then work within your faculty in your department to get the team effort to deliver great units for our students.

Early results are in

Comparing Session 1 (S1) 2020 with combined Study Period (SP) 2/3 2021, satisfaction increased for the University overall, and for commencing undergraduates in the new Model.*

Student Satisfaction graph study period camparison between Study period 1 to 2 and 3

* 2021 data relates to units in the new B Business & Enterprise (cf. B Business 2020) and core Diploma units delivered by SCU College. Other Diploma units were excluded due to low response numbers (<5).

Comparing Session 1 (S1) 2020 with combined Study Period (SP) 2/3 2021, aggregated success and GPA increased for commencing undergraduates in the new Model.*

Comparing Student Sucess and GPA from S1 2020 with combined SP 2-3 2021

* 2021 data relates to units in the new B Business & Enterprise (cf. B Business 2020) and core Diploma units delivered by SCU College. Other Diploma units were excluded due to low response numbers (<5).

 

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