The good, the bad and the interesting: Integrating a third-party provider into ALL services at a regional university
Supporting students in their learning while transitioning into university has always been a key responsibility of academic language and learning (ALL) professionals. However, the changing demands for ALL support in the contemporary tertiary environment has required a shift in practice. Over the last eight years, one regional university has redefined the role of learning advisors by taking a whole of institution approach to ALL development and pursuing a multilayered model for practice that builds staff capacity and develops confident, agentic learners. As part of a diversified suite of activities, the university has engaged the services of a third-party provider to provide after-hours, online tutorial support to students. This paper presents findings from a qualitative study conducted by the university in 2018, which evaluates the impact of the diversification of ALL services on the practices of ALL professionals, including the benefits and challenges of using third-party providers. The study revealed that while there are some benefits, learning advisors and academic staff expressed reservations about the provider’s effectiveness and usefulness. Findings suggest that students need clarification about the different feedback services available to them and guidance on seeking, interpreting, and applying feedback. The study highlights the need to carefully plan the integration of third-party services within a broader framework of feedback processes and offers insights into how ALL practitioners can best guide students and staff to appropriately use third-party services while avoiding the pitfalls.