Exemplar: Nicole El-Haber - Business foundations

Managing student engagement in a large, first year common core, multi-campus cohort

Nicole El-Haber
Subject Coordinator, Business Foundations (BUS1BUF)

Nicole designed this blended learning subject to engage a large, diverse and multi-campus cohort of first year students. By embedding strategies to manage the "busywork" of management of the subject, the teaching team is able to focus more on student engagement and learning. A key feature of this strategy is the subject FAQs that were built-in to the subject online.

The challenge

Business Foundations is a common first year core subject for students in Business courses and has two main requirements: to engage students in the foundations and thinking for a Business degree, to introduce and prepare all students for university learning, in blended mode. In addition, supporting students to work in teams is a key element in the assessment for the subject. These factors presented the teaching team with two key challenges (i) to provide correct, consistent information to students on all campuses, and (ii) to manage the deluge of repetitive email. 

The approach in this subject

The subject is designed to include structured content in the LMS, with weekly topics, assessments, and staged formative tasks, which provide students access to information and the requirements of the subject. This enabled interaction to be oriented towards learning rather than administration. The strategy for managing BUS1BUF consisted of two parts:

  1. A Subject announcement forum, for current information and issues (specific to each campus)
  2. An FAQ centre, where students could obtain information on subject-related topics.

To set this up, Nicole collated previous questions from student groups into FAQ topics, including Assessment, Forums, Turnitin, and Feedback.


Nicole tracked student engagement through responses to the FAQ, and found the frequency of response greatest for the FAQ on Assessments, with 400 logs during Semester 2 2015. Other items were Turnitin and Feedback, both with 200 responses. Below are the FAQ items for Feedback:

Critical Success Factors

Nicole found that after embedding the FAQs, the email load was reduced by 75% in Semester 2, 2015 compared to previous years.

Nicole's strategy was to populate the FAQs with items that reflected repeated questions via email and discussion posts from two years of BUS1BUF. For future iterations, Nicole will consider adding sections to the FAQ, depending on feedback.

Nicole won a La Trobe University citations for outstanding contributions to student learning in 2014:

  • Ms Nicole El Haber, Mr Greg Jamieson, Ms Swati Nagpal & Ms Elaine Plant
    For the development and delivery of an innovative, multi-campus, first year subject using blended-learning technologies and resulting in high levels of student engagement and success.