The Try, Test and Learn Fund supports innovative projects that aim to boost employment among groups of people at high risk of long-term welfare dependence. One of the groups identified by the Fund is young students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are at risk of dropping out of their post-secondary studies. The Strengthening Students’ Resilience program seeks to support these students to stay connected to their education, complete their study and attain employment.
Our research question is whether a mobile application that teaches students how to buffer themselves against the stressors of university life through their social group identities can improve students’ completion of tertiary studies and academic performance. A secondary question is whether the app improves re‑enrolment rates in the subsequent semester.
Intervention start and end date: Monday, 24 February 2020
Ethics approval: University of Newcastle Human Research Ethics Committee – approval 22 November, 2019
Experimental design including randomisation:
The intervention will be evaluated through a clustered, multisite two-arm randomised controlled trial (RCT) in two public universities. Participants will be allocated as they register with a 50% chance of allocation to treatment.
The treatment group will receive access to an app called Grok, which involves students maintaining a zen garden that is a visual representation of their social connections, both within and beyond university. The app is designed to shift student’s mindset over the course of around 16 weeks to develop better means for coping, reacting to academic stressors.
Students must complete different social, wellbeing as well as academic exercises each week in order to maintain different elements of the garden. Each element of this garden is directly linked to an outcome designed to minimise negative attributions about one’s performance at university.
The control group will receive information about the key student support services available to students at their respective universities.
The primary outcome measure for academic performance is the average subject marks received for units studied in semester 1, 2020. Subject marks are expressed as a score out of 100.
The primary outcome measure for completion of tertiary studies is the completion rate of study units that students are enrolled in beyond the census date in the 2020 autumn semester (31 March for WSU, 20 March for UON).
For both primary outcomes, the unit of analysis will be study units, clustered at the student level.
Expected sample size: 6,000 students
Other: AEA registration: AEARCTR-0005500