Swinburne Online. Student Portal.

Centralised environment for students online,
with a custom social networking platform.

About the project.

With 19 accredited university courses delivered online, and 7-day live support, Swinburne Online makes tertiary education accessible to everyone. After achieving significant growth in enrolments since launching in 2009, Swinburne Online invited Tundra to help transition their website into a learning environment that represented best practice.

Student portal.

Our first job was to organise a disparate array of features and environments into a single, cohesive experience. So we created the Student Portal, a secure, personalised environment students access with a login. There they can see a range of useful information, from which courses they’re currently enrolled in, new messages they have to read and respond to and important dates that are coming up.

The portal also acts as a controlled gateway to the other environments they need to use during their course, such as administration screens, online classroom applications and library resources. With this centralised environment, students feel much more confident navigating the various components of their online study.

Custom social networking platform.

The greatest challenge for students studying online is the sense of isolation. To answer this need, Swinburne Online had created a number of dedicated Facebook pages for each course. While these were being used to an extent, many students didn’t feel comfortable discussing study in such an open environment.

We proposed an ambitious solution – an entirely new social networking platform inside the Swinburne Online website. Developed over many sprints, and launched in August 2014, ‘Connect’ not only replicates the standard set of features found on social networks, but also adds functionality designed for study. The uptake was fast, and the feedback overwhelmingly positive. Students find it a more focused and supportive social environment, where interactions are more meaningful. But most importantly, they now feel more connected to each other. And less isolated.

Orientation.

Studying online can be complicated when you’re just starting out. There are different environments to become familiar with, learning resources to access and new systems to learn. The existing orientation application was adequate, but feedback indicated students were feeling overloaded with information.

Our approach to redesigning Orientation was to only give the students the information they needed at that time, nothing more. This would help limit the feeling of being overwhelmed at the start. We divided the content into 12 modules, each focusing on a different area of study that students would easily understand. And to avoid overwhelming students, we eliminated links within the content, so students could stay focused.

The result was a massive increase in student engagement with the Orientation modules, and an average time on site of 16 minutes. Which meant that more students were entering study with a better understanding of how it all worked, reducing their anxiety and the volume of enquiries.