Does online engagement matter? The impact of interactive learning modules and synchronous class attendance on student achievement in an immersive delivery model




immersive scheduling, online modules, active learning, student engagement, academic success, academic literacies, mixed methods


One Australian public university is radically changing the way it delivers higher education, introducing a 6-week immersive scheduling delivery model across all units and courses. Despite the emerging success of block and immersive models for raising the performance of diverse student cohorts, the design factors underpinning positive outcomes are underexplored. This paper presents a mixed methods study of the impact and value of student engagement with interactive and responsive online content modules and synchronous classes in an immersive scheduling model. The findings indicate that behavioural engagement with online learning modules has a positive effect on academic success and is a significant predictor of a higher final score. Qualitative data indicate several attributes of high-quality online learning modules that students appear to associate with engagement and deeper learning in the immersive model: interactivity, media richness, constructive alignment, flexibility and responsiveness. Synchronous class attendance did not impact final scores; however, students nonetheless valued the opportunity to form safe and supportive communities of inquiry during classes. This study demonstrates that in times of increasing demand for more flexible learning, immersive scheduling models that are founded on active learning principles and embed interactive, responsive, media-rich online learning modules can improve student engagement and performance.

Implications for practice or policy:

  • Higher education practitioners should integrate interactive, responsive, media-rich and constructively aligned online learning modules into curricula.
  • Synchronous active learning classes that create safe communities of inquiry should be offered alongside options for asynchronous participation.
  • Low levels of engagement with online learning modules should prompt follow-up from educators to raise engagement and bolster academic achievement.
  • Immersive delivery models are effective curriculum innovations that, when designed with interactive online modules, can support improved academic achievement.


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Author Biographies

Elizabeth Goode, Southern Cross University

Dr Elizabeth (Liz) Goode is a Lecturer in the Academic Portfolio Office. Her role includes developing communities of practice that support the implementation of a new delivery model across the institution: the Southern Cross Model. From 2019-2020 she taught in the Preparing for Success Program in SCU College. Her focus as an educator is on preparing and empowering students from diverse backgrounds for university study in both blended and fully online modes. She is the recipient of an Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning, and several Vice-Chancellor's Citations.

Johanna Nieuwoudt, Southern Cross University

Dr Johanna Nieuwoudt is an experienced lecturer in SCU College at Southern Cross University, where she helps students from diverse backgrounds and experiences gain skills and confidence to be successful in their future university studies. She specializes in the curriculum design and delivery of higher education pathway courses for students in high school (Year 12), pre-award programs, and diplomas. Johanna's primary research interests are in the identification of factors that may contribute to student success. Johanna is an editor of the Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, an international peer-reviewed journal publishing contributions dealing with student engagement in higher education from a disciplinary or multi-disciplinary perspective.

Thomas Roche, Southern Cross University

Professor Thomas Roche is the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Quality) and Dean of SCU College at Southern Cross University at the Gold Coast, Coffs Harbour & Lismore campuses, Australia. Professor Thomas Roche is a specialist in the design, delivery and management of higher education programs. He has significant teaching and senior management experience in higher education programs for international and domestic students, helping students from diverse backgrounds reach their educational and personal goals. He also undertakes external quality assurance and program reviews for universities in Australia and abroad. Professor Roche's primary research interests are in Applied Linguistics and Academic Literacy, focusing largely on Additional Language Development (L2), English for Academic Purposes (EAP), University Direct Entry pathway programs, and the role of digital literacy in contemporary higher education.




How to Cite

Goode, E., Nieuwoudt, J., & Roche, T. (2022). Does online engagement matter? The impact of interactive learning modules and synchronous class attendance on student achievement in an immersive delivery model . Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 38(4), 76–94.