Older, online and first: Recommendations for retention and success

  • Cathy Stone The University of Newcastle
  • Sarah O'Shea The University of Wollongong
Keywords: Higher Education, First in Family, Online, Mature age


The university student population in Australia contains increasing numbers of older students returning to learning after a significant gap in their educational journey. Many are choosing to enrol online to combine their studies with other time-consuming responsibilities. This article examines the nature of this online student experience with a focus on those aged 25 and over who are the first in their families to embark on university studies. Drawing on interviews conducted with both staff and students operating in this virtual space, as well as other related research and literature, this article offers recommendations to higher education institutions and educators on ways to improve retention and ongoing participation of this cohort.


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Author Biographies

Cathy Stone, The University of Newcastle
Conjoint Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Social Science
The University of Newcastle
2016 Equity Fellow & 2017 Visiting Research Fellow, National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE)
Sarah O'Shea, The University of Wollongong

Principal Fellow, HEA; Australian Learning and Teaching Fellow 

2017 Visiting Research Fellow, NCSEHE (Curtin Uni)

Chair, Wollongong Academy of Tertiary Teaching and Learning Excellence (WATTLE)

School of Education | Social Sciences | 67:308

University of Wollongong NSW 2522 Australia

How to Cite
Stone, C., & O’Shea, S. (2019). Older, online and first: Recommendations for retention and success. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 35(1). https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.3913