Preparing for Success

Te Takatū mō te Angitu

Last updated 8 March 2023
Last updated 8 March 2023

Use these resources to gain an understanding of the learner success journey ahead and how to build commitment for change.

The Preparing for Success component of the Learner Success Framework is designed to help tertiary education organisations (TEOs) familiarise themselves with the key elements of a whole-of-organisation approach to learner success before using the diagnostic tool or setting up project/programme structures. An organisation-wide approach is owned by leadership, integrated, collaborative and holistic, and enables learners to progress along their educational and career pathways.

A foundational step in creating an environment where learners can succeed, is understanding the learner populations that TEOs serve. Knowing about a learner’s lived experiences and challenges in their education journey can help inform what learner success means for an organisation.

Improving learner success involves identifying a wide set of learner needs both within and outside of the teaching and learning environment. A TEO’s approach will rely on coordinating many elements within their organisational ecosystem. TEOs need to understand and be prepared for undertaking such a journey, what this means for their organisation, and the time it takes to implement wide-scale change.

The resources in the Preparing for Success section are evidence-based and practitioner-tested, and we have selected them to aid TEOs in planning and implementing a more seamless and comprehensive learner-centred operating model.

Please note: We have gathered these resources to make it quicker and easier for you to find information for starting your learner success journey. While we have made every effort to ensure sources are reputable, their inclusion does not indicate endorsement from the Tertiary Education Commission.

Organisational capabilities and helpful resources

The following suite of resources provides insight into the seven learner success capabilities. These capabilities underpin a whole-of-organisation, learner-centred operating model. As they are inherently interdependent, the content of some resources relates to multiple capabilities.

We recommend you familiarise yourself with each of these before moving on to component two of the Learner Success Framework – the Learner Success Diagnostic Tool – a tool for assessing current capability and identifying areas for change.

1. People, culture and leadership

The commitment and collaboration of the TEO’s leadership to culturally conscious learner success for all, a clear vision for desired change, and a whole-of-organisation approach.

The responsibility for learners’ success is shared across the organisation – a responsibility that can be fostered by working towards a shared understanding of a clear vision and approach. However, it must be owned and led at the governance and leadership levels.

A senior leadership team with aligned goals will help ensure funding and resourcing decisions are prioritised in line with the TEO’s whole-of-organisation approach. This can help remove barriers to cross-department collaboration.

A whole-of-organisation approach requires cross-functional ways of working. This can be difficult to enact due to internal structures, so having a set of common organisational goals can help support operational and academic units to work together.

Adopting a common culture of learner-centredness is a critical step toward more inclusive and equitable learner outcomes. Taking a closer look at classrooms, programmes and services ensures organisations do not inadvertently reinforce bias or perpetuate inequities in advancing learner success.


Adopting new technologies for student success (PDF, 203 KB), Tertiary Education Commission – readiness for student success technology adoption framework

A. Kezar, The importance of shared leadership and collaboration (PDF, 608 KB), Occasional Paper no. 4, Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research – guiding principles for promoting shared leadership and collaboration among administrators, academics, students and staff

Manu Kōkiri – Māori Success and Tertiary Education: Towards a Comprehensive Vision (PDF 13 MB), Taumata Aronui – a vision for transformational change in tertiary education

Nine Strategies for Delivering Equitable Student Outcomes, Civitas Learning – evidence-based practices and strategies to help achieve equitable student outcomes

Toolkit for Equity-Minded Decisions & Policies (PDF, 397 KB), University of Virginia – a framework and assessment to help examine the impact of systemic inequities

2. Data and technology

The ability to ethically collect, assess, analyse and use data to inform decisions, and to use technology to support learner success for all.

An important part of designing a learner-centred operating model is fostering a data-informed culture across the organisation to make data useful, useable and actionable.

Part of laying the groundwork for change is building the organisation’s capacity to analyse, report and use data. This may take several years of developing capacity to not only collect and analyse data on students, but also to use data to inform the programme of transformation, continuous improvement and decision-making.


Algorithm Assessment Report (PDF, 9.7 MB), Stats NZ – a report into the use of algorithms for public benefit in New Zealand

Analysing student data (PDF 2.7 MB), Tertiary Education Commission – Ōritetanga learner analytics ethics framework report

Ethical data analytics, Tertiary Education Commission – information to guide TEOs on policy, procedure and principles for the safe and effective use of data and analytics

Learner analytics ethics framework, Tertiary Education Commission – Learner analytics ethics framework to use when dealing with big data to inform learner success initiatives

Learner analytics tools and templates, Tertiary Education Commission – Ōritetanga learner analytics tools and templates to help TEOs understand the issues of using data and ways to mitigate risks

Notice and consent, Tertiary Education Commission – guidance and tools for TEOs to inform people and gain their consent to collect and use their personal information

A Path to Social Licence: Guidelines for Trusted Data Use (PDF, 607 KB), Data Futures Partnership – guidelines to encourage trusted data use practices

Predictive Analytics in Higher Education: Five Guiding Practices for Ethical Use (PDF, 1.4 MB), New America – a framework to help formulate how to use predictive analytics ethically

Privacy notice, Tertiary Education Commission – information and template for developing a privacy notice to show the public how your organisation manages personal information

K. Taiuru, Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti and Māori Ethics Guide for: AI, Algorithms, Data and IOT – guidelines for organisations engaging with digital projects involving New Zealand and Māori data

3. Guided pathways

Clear and relevant educational pathways, from first engagement to employment, that foster learner success for all.

Guided pathways are an organisation-wide approach to give learners clear, coherent and structured educational experiences, building in a variety of academic and non-academic supports throughout the learner journey. Guided pathways put equity at the centre, so organisations can improve outcomes for all learners.

The guided pathways approach starts with the learners’ end goals in mind and involves reviewing and clearly mapping study programmes to ensure that learners can complete study without unnecessary financial burden or studying for longer than needed.

The approach encompasses redesigning business processes, student services, technology systems and instruction to better help all learners explore options and interests, create academic plans, and complete programmes that will prepare them to successfully graduate, advance in their careers, and prepare for lifelong learning. This is a complex process that can take several years. It requires culture change and a shift in mindset about how best to help learners learn and succeed.


Building Momentum: Using Guided Pathways to Redesign the Student Experience (PDF, 5.2 MB), University of Texas – an evidence-based report on the outcomes of implementing a guided pathways approach

Implementing Guided Pathways: Early Insights from the AACC Pathways Colleges (PDF, 647 KB), Columbia University Community College Research Center – insights into how 30 organisations implemented guided pathways, including an evaluation report

Providing Structured Pathways to Guide Students Toward Completion (PDF, 306 KB), Completion by Design – examples in practice of implementing structured pathways

Subject matcher, – course matcher resource to help students and advisers explore study and job ideas

4. Holistic learner supports

Planning and integrating critical learner, academic and personal supports into a seamless, culturally conscious, timely experience designed with and for every learner.

Through a proactive model of outreach, advisers check-in at key decision points along a learner’s educational pathway. This may require a fundamental redesign of advising – one that entails new roles, not only for staff with formal advising roles but also for all other academic and professional staff, so they understand their role within the holistic system.

To help inform proactive outreach, organisations should also consider how to enhance their information systems so learners and advisers can monitor academic progress and engagement.


Academic Advising Resources, NACADA global community for academic advising – a suite of resources on over 250 subjects related to student advising

Caring for Students Playbook: Getting Started with Key Terms, Challenges, and Approaches (PDF, 2 MB), Achieving the Dream – understanding diversity, equity and inclusion to provide a caring, supportive learning environment

A Framework for Advising Reform (PDF, 455 KB), Columbia University Community College Research Center – the key principles for a sustained, strategic, integrated, proactive and personalised framework for advising

Holistic Student Supports Redesign: A Toolkit, Achieving the Dream – a toolkit to help guide organisations in redesigning student support through an integrated, collaborative and holistic approach

Implementing holistic student support: a practitioner's guide to key structures and processes, Columbia University Community College Research Center – a set of tools to help organisations develop technology-mediated advising and student support

5. Learner-centric systems

Policies and practices that improve outcomes for learners, and processes for reviewing and aligning policies and practices to remove barriers and enable learner success (including drawing from the evidence base of Māori/Indigenous and diverse learner success practices).

Addressing systems is likely to be a multi-year undertaking in order to align intersecting organisational policies and practices across different departments or faculties.  For example, implementing learner engagement analytics requires relevant policies, practices and guidelines, such as data governance. Organisations will also need a system, such as a learner relationship management system, to capture and monitor interventions and to measure impact. To act upon the analytics and enact policy, role descriptions that reflect new practices are needed, as well as staff who hold the desired skills. Due to the inter-departmental complexity of implementing learner-centred systems, programme planning may require a greater level of engagement across the organisation to optimise the sequencing of activities.

The transformation involves not just academic and learner services staff, but also registrar, information technology, finance, human resources and other functions. Engaging early and frequently with learners is fundamental.

For this reason, a first step may be to investigate the learner journey across the organisation to identify how learners interact with systems, processes and staff. Interactions either facilitate (momentum) or impede (loss) the achievement of learners’ educational goals. The loss/momentum framework is a means to better understand the student experience and identify specific areas within an organisation for reform and redesign.

In moving to learner-centred systems, organisations should be mindful of the need for both implementation and adoption. Systems may be redesigned, but it is adopting new ways of working that will change practices and improve learner outcomes.


Adopting new technologies for student success: A readiness framework (PDF, 202 KB), Columbia University Community College Research Center – a framework for organisational change that considers the motivation for adopting pan-organisation technology to support student success

Kia Ōrite Toolkit, Achieve – guidance to help organisations better provide an inclusive and equitable environment for disabled learners to succeed

Knowing Our Students: Understanding & Designing for Success guidebook, Achieving the Dream – tools, guidelines and resources to become a student-centred organisation

Redesigning advising with the help of technology: Early experiences of three institutions (PDF, 895 KB), Columbia University Community College Research Center – a report on the way three organisations implemented strategic, sustained outreach to students with the help of technology

Technology-mediated advising and student support: An institutional self-assessment (PDF, 105 KB), Columbia University Community College Research Center – an institutional self-assessment to help organisations assess their technology-mediated advising and student support

Understanding student experience through the loss/momentum framework: Clearing the path to completion (PDF, 850 KB), Columbia University Community College Research Center – tools to help organisations develop an in-depth understanding of the student journey

6. Teaching and learning

Implementation of learner-centric instructional design, meaningful professional development, and learning environments and contexts to be effective and culturally conscious, including kaupapa Māori-designed environments.

A focus on learner-centred instructional design and creating culturally affirming and safe learning environments will support learner success.

Culturally responsive instructional design uses inclusive curriculum design in course materials, assessments and teaching processes to create opportunities for students to connect new material to their prior knowledge, lived experiences and existing cultural structures.

The loss/momentum framework (see capability 5, Learner-centric systems) highlights the opportunity to review instructional design, particularly for gateway courses and those with historically low performance, and to consider alternative modes and structures such as block model, and meta majors. The corequisite model is another way to help students continue to progress through gateway courses while getting the additional academic support they need.

It is important for learners to experience a level of consistency when they go from course to course during their studies. Consistency does not mean sameness, but it does mean learners do not have to relearn how to navigate each different course’s learning space within the online learning management system. To support consistency and quality in the online teaching environment, minimum standards for online learning may be applied, as prescribed by organisational policy.

To encourage learner-centred innovation, recognition should be embedded within performance development and career planning for teaching staff.


Burke, K. and Larmer, S. (2020), Journal of Further and Higher Education, 45(5), Acknowledging another face in the virtual crowd: Reimagining the online experience in higher education through an online pedagogy of care – an approach to online learning that serves to foster positive engagement across the student lifecycle

Corequisite Works: Student Success Models at the University System of Georgia (PDF, 4 MB), Complete College America – corequisite models to support student success at the University System of Georgia

Engaging Adjunct and Full-time Faculty in Student Success Innovation (PDF, 356 KB), Achieving the Dream – framework, principles and practices for engagement with academics

Equity Through Complexity: Inside the “Black Box” of the Block Model, National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education – an evaluation of how the block model of learning at Victoria University, Melbourne, achieved improved student retention and outcomes

Technology Enhanced Learning Framework, Australian Council on Open, Distance, and E-learning – tools for the planning, review, and benchmarking of technology enhanced learning

Threshold Standards for Online Learning Environments (PDF, 1.1 MB), Australian Council on Open, Distance, and E-learning – a set of standards to ensure that a level of consistency and quality is maintained in the online learning environment

Time for Class: The State of Digital Learning and Courseware Adoption, Tyton – a report into instructional practices for introductory and gateway courses to improve learning outcomes

7. Partnerships

The development and support of partnerships between the TEO and relevant employers/industry, learners, family and whānau, hapū, iwi and community groups, social agencies and education providers.

Partnership with schools, employers, community organisations, family and whānau can help reduce barriers for learners, and create cross-sector pathways into study and career opportunities, particularly for those students traditionally underserved by tertiary education.

Implementing cross-sector pathways at scale requires organisations to move from transactional relationships to transformational relationships focused on “win-wins” for both the organisation and their external partners.

Importantly, learners bring an essential perspective for creating a success-oriented learning environment. Whiria Ngā Rau provides a framework for partnership between learners and providers.


Te Pae Tawhiti: Te Tiriti o Waitangi Excellence Framework 2022–2023 (PDF, 1 MB), Te Pūkenga – Te Pae Tawhiti Te Tiriti o Waitangi Excellence Framework for policies, processes, systems and practices, with the goal of improving outcomes for Māori

Using guided pathways to build cross-sector pathways partnerships, Columbia University Community College Research Center – an exploratory study of practices and strategies employed by four organisations to build cross-sector relationships to enhance education and career opportunities for students

Whiria Ngā Rau, New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations – the Whiria Ngā Rau framework for partnership between students and providers