How are you travelling? Facing retention head-on


  • Carmen Schultz University of New England, Armidale
  • Stephen Grono University of New England, Armidale
  • Mike Franklin University of New England, Armidale



online learning, student engagement, student satisfaction, retention, wellbeing


Learner engagement and cultivating a sense of belonging is the primary challenge of providing distance, hybrid, and online modes of higher education (Parkes et al., 2015). In response to this need, we designed and embedded the ‘How are You Travelling?’ (HYT) block into 285 teaching sites over 6 years enabling student engagement. It provides a short side-by-side sequence of expressive emoji – from happy to tearful – in a high-visibility area of the course page within the LMS platform. When learners open the course, alongside the course content, they are greeted with a simple query: ‘How are you travelling?’.

The block is part of a holistic approach to engagement (Boulton et al., 2019), allowing for integration with broader university support services as appropriate to student needs. For students who are anxious or intimidated by directly contacting teachers via email, or publicly posting to discussion forums, the HYT block provides an approachable space for instigating open dialogue, increasing a sense of engagement (Hammill et al., 2020; Muzammil et al., 2020), and breaking cycles of distance, isolation and disconnect, with the overall goal to improve learner retention (Muljana & Luo, 2019).

In the HYT block, learners select an emoji indicating positive or negative affect and are taken to a form to optionally respond further. The HYT block draws on innovative uses of available functionality within the platform, without the need for custom plugins, including automatic alerts for teachers. The simplicity in design allows learners to reach out when in need or share when they are going well.






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